The trajectory of US energy policy threatens to raise fuel prices, throttle renewable energy expansion and hamper energy diplomacy, according to the president and CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
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"Here's the truth that many of our policymakers seem to refuse to acknowledge," Amy Andryszak said during a virtual address at the United States Energy Association's State of the Energy Industry Forum on Jan. 20. "For so many of our nation's challenges, natural gas is part of the answer."
Years of anti-fossil fuel policymaking have led to a growing portfolio of canceled natural gas pipeline projects, a trend that places US energy supply at risk, Andryszak said. Federal, state and local actions could exacerbate the situation in Europe and Asia, where gas prices have skyrocketed in tight markets, and expose the US to the energy crisis, she said. Among the policies that Andryszak said could worsen the situation are cities continuing to adopt gas restrictions in new buildings, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul signaling support for statewide building electrification requirements.
At the federal level, Andryszak criticized a proposed methane emissions fee in Democrats' stalled Build Back Better agenda. She pointed to a US Department of the Interior report calling for higher royalty rates for oil and gas production on federal lands, as well as the agency's move to block drilling on much of Alaska's North Slope. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's reviews of proposed gas infrastructure projects have "slowed substantially" as FERC considers a new policy statement, Andryszak said. Further, the US Environmental Protection Agency has urged FERC to more aggressively consider climate impacts of those projects, she said.
Many of these actions came after the US Energy Information Administration reported that the cost of heating a home with natural gas this winter would rise 30% year over year to $746 for the average US home, she said. Still, Andryszak said that price is lower than the EIA's forecast for homes heated with electricity: an average of $1,268 for the October 2021-March 2022 period, up 6% from winter 2020-2021.
Andryszak warned that if energy policy continued on its current path, the country could see a return to the early 2000s, when high gas prices made businesses think about moving abroad.
Ensuring that power plants have access to reliable gas supply would also support renewable energy development, because on-call gas-fired power generation complements intermittent solar and wind resources, Andryszak said. Pipeline opposition also complicates the industry's ability to supply US LNG terminals, ease overseas supply constraints and counter Russian influence over Europe's energy market, she said.
"But we should not just help our friends in Europe through this crisis," Andryszak said. "We should also learn from their experience. As Europe has discovered, you cannot ban your way to clean energy without threatening affordability and reliability."