As we look to the new year, let’s count a few of our country’s newest energy-related gifts:
1. Production Up, Emissions Down
Methane emissions from natural gas and oil development continue to decline in a number of America’s top energy-producing areas, according to a report by the group Energy in Depth (EID). The report is based on EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, and it shows methane emissions from eight of the top-producing shale basins have fallen more than 28 percent the past six years while natural gas and oil output have increased.
These high-producing areas include the prolific Williston Basin in North and South Dakota and Montana; and the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico – which pumped more than 800 million barrels of oil this year, beating the previous record of 790 million barrels set 44 years ago!
As some groups push for additional EPA and Bureau of Land Management methane rules, claiming that voluntary efforts to reduce emissions haven’t worked, it’s clear that a combination of industry actions in concert with existing regulation have worked – and that additional regulation isn’t needed. Indeed, industry has great incentive to capture methane during natural gas and oil production because it’s the chief component of natural gas.
Overall, methane emissions from natural gas production declined 16.3 percent between 1990 and 2015 – even as production rose nearly 52 percent. Earlier this month The Environmental Partnership, consisting of more than two dozen companies, was launched to continue reducing emissions by focusing on three of the greatest sources of industry-related emissions using technology, innovation and concerted collaboration.
Side note: Check out this new report pointing to economic benefits from natural gas and oil development to localities that are near key shale plays, including some of the above. The vast majority of local governments in the areas studied report net positive fiscal effects from energy development.
2. Pro-Growth Tax Reform
The newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act broadly modernizes the tax code for the 21stcentury in ways that will help grow the economy and add jobs. Updated provisions will be good for business investment generally, including our industry. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
“The natural gas and oil industry supports millions of U.S. jobs and invests billions into the U.S. economy each year, and an updated tax code will allow our industry to accelerate investments and help unleash economic activity. Pro-growth reforms like strong cost-recovery provisions and a lower corporate rate can also drive innovations in new technologies to protect the environment and help provide affordable energy for consumers.”
Consultant Scott Desmarais told Houston Public Media:
“The cash that that frees up allows them to think about, and gives them more confidence in, some potential investments to improve and increase production, or increase productivity overall. … I think that you’ll have people taking a hard look at maybe speeding up some of their investments …”
Tax reform legislation also retained important tax treatments that help energy companies raise capital for new production, including expensing for intangible drilling costs.
3. Increased Energy Access
The new tax bill also includes a provision to open much of the coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to natural gas and oil development, which could yield between 4.3 billion and more than 10 billion barrels of crude oil – perhaps even more.
Industry has a four-decade track record of safe development at Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope fields. Modern technologies minimize surface footprint to a fraction of the subsurface area from which natural gas and oil are safely produced.
ANWR’s natural gas and oil reserves are strategically important to our country’s future energy security. Opening access to ANWR’s coastal plain has more to do with U.S. energy needs years down the road than with current market conditions.
America’s energy abundance makes our country stronger, more prosperous and secure in the world. Safely harnessing this energy requires technology, innovation, access to reserves and smart policy. When these come together, we all benefit.