Trump can lead an energy renaissance that environmentalists should support

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I recently wrote about the energy challenge in the Northeast, where there is opposition to the construction of natural gas pipelines that could bring clean burning fuel to produce electricity. Instead, fuel oil is being burnt and natural gas is being shipped in by supertankers from other nations. Both alternatives involve a much larger carbon footprint.  

Several recent articles are bringing hope that new government action could lead us to an energy renaissance – one that environmentalists could also support. In a recent editorial for The New York Times, Meghan L. O’Sullivan, one of former President George W. Bush’s deputy national security advisors, writes how Trump can harness the energy boom:

The new energy abundance in the United States has given President Trump a historic opportunity not just to expand the country’s economy at home, but also to expand its leadership globally. To maximize this opportunity, he should think about energy as more than a driver of economic growth, overcome the powerful political forces favoring isolationism and retrenchment, and rein in his tendency to alienate countries that should be energy allies of the United States.

This is not a new opportunity. The U.S. rode oil discoveries and technologies to become the dominant world economic power in the early 1900s. A recent article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer talks about this economic renaissance led by the John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Now, an organization in SE Ohio, Shale Crescent, is working to bring 100,000 new jobs to the region over the next 8 years:

Shale Crescent realized that oil and natural gas had created prosperity for the Mid-Ohio Valley on two prior occasions. The first was in the late 1800s with the discovery of shallow, abundant oil and natural gas fields in Ohio and West Virginia. Much of the early industries including the glass industry and the early petrochemical industry developed during this time. 

The second boom happened after World War II. The long-haul pipelines built during the depression and World War II brought natural gas from the gulf coast into the region. This created the manufacturing and petrochemical boom of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. 

Following the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s and the “energy crisis” we experienced until 2010, many of these companies left to go overseas or to the Gulf Coast where energy was more accessible, abundant and lower cost. This created “the rust belt.” The remnants of this boom are still evident today with many of the factories being repurposed or standing vacant. 

But the world has changed again. Not only is the Marcellus and Utica the largest natural gas field in the world, it has also accounted for almost ALL of the recent growth in U.S. natural gas production. In 2010, the northeast provided just three percent of the U.S. natural gas supply. That number now exceeds 30 percent and by 2020, is projected to be 35 percent.

This all can be done while dramatically reducing carbon emissions, a point made in this article from Forbes. Natural gas is the leading cause of carbon reduction because it can provide baseload electric power at a fraction of the emissions of coal or fuel oil. 

This is truly a historic opportunity for our nation and it appears a coalition is forming to implement the policies needed to realize this potential energy renaissance. 

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