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Biden Administration Continues Mixed Messaging on U.S. Natural Gas 

natural gas
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel

Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley

After months of mixed messages on what the Biden Administration’s true position was on U.S. natural gas production, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry further muddied the waters on April 21 by stating that he was “putting natural gas on notice,” saying the world’s reliance on the fossil fuel should be limited to potentially a decade, unless its greenhouse gas emissions are fully captured.

Though natural gas burns cleaner than coal when used to generate electricity, it should not be part of a long-term climate strategy without emission-control technology, Kerry said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. This statement left out the fact that EIA has determined that natural gas is the major reason the U.S. has lowered its carbon emissions significantly since 2005, mainly by switching from coal fired power generation over to natural gas.   

Earlier this week, in what appears to be an attempt to clean up his prior statements, Secretary Kerry said, “The private sector, and gas companies particularly, are going to be part of this transition. We need gas, which is automatically a reduction from the level of emissions of either coal or oil. Gas is 50% of that. And … by the way, our gas is much cleaner than Russian gas.”

This ambiguity on the part of the Administration could not come at a worse time. Our allies abroad are currently scrambling to figure out options to power their countries without being forced to rely on Russian gas. Russian gas makes up over 40% of the power grid in many European countries and Russian actions in Ukraine are making the long term viability of that supply highly questionable. 

Europeans are desperately looking for sources of energy that are stable, so they can guarantee energy security for their populations. Mixed signals like this on the part of the Administration signal that the U.S. cannot be seen as a long-term stable provider of natural gas for their countries. These statements will encourage our allies to look elsewhere as they make long-term large energy infrastructure investments to replace Russian gas, and they serve as a near 180 degree turn from statements and promises made by the President himself to our European allies.   

Additionally, in order provide energy security to the United States and our allies, large investments in energy infrastructure here in the United States will be necessary. These investments are long term and require significant regulatory certainty to ensure that they will be sustainable. Back and forth statements like this from the Administration only serve to make investors more uncertain of what the true U.S. policy will be. Energy Workforce will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to support U.S. natural gas and tell the story of the energy security that it can provide to our country and our allies. 

Sen. Joe Manchin Eyes Last Chance to Move Climate Legislation

With the clock ticking on this Congress as the summer campaign slowdown is fast approaching, Sen. Joe Manchin appears to be looking at a last minute “hail mary” to salvage some of the climate provisions that were contained in the “Build Back Better” bill that he torpedoed earlier this year. Sen. Manchin is reportedly reaching out to Sen. Lisa Murkowski and others on the Republican side to determine if some sort of bipartisan compromise could be reached that would circumvent the need for a reconciliation package.

While the reconciliation package option is clearly still on the table, the prospect of an attempt at a bipartisan package is newsworthy. Whether or not Sen. Manchin is able to pull off this daunting task remains to be seen, but Energy Workforce will closely follow the development of any package as it could be very relevant to our sector. We could see changes to the federal leasing program, a revival of the methane fee proposal or additional taxes on the industry included in the bill. This package will likely be a topic of conversation at the annual Washington, DC Fly-In May 10-12. Registration is still open to attend. 

If you would like to get involved with the Council’s advocacy efforts or the Government Affairs Committee, contact SVP Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.

Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.


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