At the end of April, twenty-two members of the Western Energy Alliance traveled Washington, DC in the hopes of representing the perspectives Western energy employees. Over the course of a few days, WEA members met with Senators and Congressmen as well as the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. Though there still remains some legislative ground to cover as the area’s oil and gas industry work toward the future, the Washington, DC Call-Up was a great opportunity for Western oil and gas producers to introduce themselves to new staffers on the Hill, catch up with seasoned veterans, and most importantly discuss what the industry does to provide everyone in the United States a much needed and sought after product at a very affordable price.
On April 17, a home in Firestone, Colorado erupted in a violent blast, killing two people and badly burning a third. The explosion killed Joseph William Irwin III and his brother-in-law Mark Martinez. It also seriously injured Martinez’s wife, Erin. Though investigators from Firestone have yet to determine a cause for the explosion, the scope of their investigation extends to a vertical well operated by Anadarko Petroleum located about 200 feet from the home.
The well’s proximity to the home combined with Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum’s decision to close and inspect 3,000 of its vertical wells across the state have combined to form a real publicity problem for the oil and gas industry as a whole.
It seems that for lack of a proper culprit, a convenient scapegoat will do.
On Tuesday, April 25, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill that would place an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing for the next decade. More than that, the bill — Oregon House Bill 2711 — would make it illegal to advance any rule making efforts regarding fracking. If turned into law, the bill would put a complete halt to the advancement of any fracking project in the state and might, as Oregon conservatives claim, any type of extraction in the state.
On April 22, people around the world gathered for Earth Day. The annual celebration is used historically as an opportunity to raise environmental awareness and get people involved in the effort to preserve our glorious planet. In 2017, environmentalists throughout the United States used the opportunity to stage a “March for Science.” The various parades, protests, and the like were executed with the implicit understanding that science isn’t a factor for the US government when considering environmental policy.
And while the “March for Science” was an all-inclusive criticism of federal policy, one of the chief areas of concern was the US government’s continued support for hydraulic fracturing. Of course, those people marching in support of science are overlooking some pretty important facts in their pursuit of “knowledge.”
During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump made no bones about his support for the domestic coal industry. For Trump, the quest to save coal is a quest to save jobs in the Northeast. Since taking office, Trump hasn’t turned his back on the coal industry. Unfortunately, most experts think that the President’s legislative efforts to help a once vibrant American industry may be quixotic at best.
An Environmental Regulation Rollback
On Tuesday, March 28, Donald Trump issued an executive order with the goal of eliminating several Obama-era environmental regulations. Specifically, Trump’s executive order revokes a rule designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The legislation also overrules several Obama policies that sought to mitigate the effects of climate change.
For Trump, however, putting United States citizens to work should be the nation’s top priority. As he explained before he signed the order, “My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American wealth. We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”
Though that goal is absolutely admirable, the sweeping changes may have come too late to save the flagging coal industry.
Coal Is Simply Past Its Prime in the United States
In 2017, something remarkable happened. For the first time, coal was dethroned as the top fuel used for power. Who took the top spot? Natural gas, of course. Currently, the United States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and the industry has plans in place to expand even further in the coming years.
The decision to ramp up natural gas use in the United States wasn’t the choice of oil and gas companies, either. It was a decision made largely by several utilities companies who set in motion plans to replace their coal infrastructure with cleaner burning natural gas. Extraction companies are simply meeting the need of energy producers in the United States and the rest of the world.
Ten years ago, coal might have been saved, but the Obama administration regulations got just enough time as the law of the land that utilities companies and coal extraction companies were forced to set in motion an irrevocable transition to natural gas.
To try and undo the millions in set up costs in order to go back to dilapidated coal mines which would likely cost millions more to repair and restaff just doesn’t make sense for many American companies.
The United States Is Oil and Gas Country
Let’s not even mention the fact that all but a few holdouts have acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing is much less harmful to the environment than coal, even though it totally is.
In terms of sheer dollars and cents, natural gas is the preferred method of extraction for most energy companies for obvious reasons. It’s cheaper, it’s safer, and it’s much easier on the planet Earth. Not only that, but a transition to natural gas extraction stands to make the United States billions in annual income as we work to meet the growing international demand.
The fact is, coal had its time in America, but the new millennium requires a technological step forward, and for the time being that’s oil and natural gas.