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EGEB: The American Petroleum Institute wants a fight with Biden

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • The American Petroleum Institute held its annual “State of American Energy.” It’s business as usual.
  • More than 100 elected officials in US western states call on Biden to protect lands and fight the climate crisis.
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API: It’s all fossil fuels as usual

The American Petroleum Institute held its annual “State of American Energy” event this week. And if you scroll down on its page (click this link) and look at the API’s plans for the present and the future, you can see that most (but not all) of them are at odds with the incoming Biden administration’s plan to prioritize tackling climate change by making a huge shift to green energy. It’s almost like API lives in an alternate energy universe to European Big Oil and those countries signed up to the Paris Agreement. Indeed, Biden says he will rejoin the Paris Agreement the day after inauguration.

And today, France’s Total SE became the first major global energy company to quit the API due to its climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations.

Norwegian oil giant Equinor had this to say about the American Petroleum Institute in April, after Equinor quit the Independent Petroleum Association of America:

Our assessment of API’s climate position and climate policy principles shows some misalignment with Equinor’s position. We have however observed a positive shift over recent years reducing the gap. Based on our dialogue with API’s leadership we expect further progress.

Equinor will remain a member of this organization and engage in further developing API’s climate position.

For example, the API is keen to promote natural gas “as a foundation for a cleaner future,” and its report summary doesn’t even mention renewables. It takes the usual watered-down concession stance of “support the environment” (which you can’t do if you’re drilling it) and affordable energy, and energy efficiency. It does, however, actually use the words “climate change.”

First off, American Petroleum Institute president Mike Sommers is in favor of drilling on federal land, which is in direct conflict with the beliefs of President-elect Joe Biden and incoming Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (D-NM). In fact, he cited Haaland’s state of New Mexico’s Permian Basin, and argued that a restriction of drilling would cost the state jobs and money. (Did he not hear about the utter flop that was the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling auction last week in which no one bid but Alaska?)

As Electrek has previously reported in November 2020, Sommers said the API would use “every tool at its disposal” including legal action in order to frack on federal lands, which he says are meant for “multi-use.”

Sommers said this at the API’s event this week:

I hope that the new secretary of Interior, despite her previous positions on our industry, comes to understand the importance of development of our federal lands.

Further, Democratic progressives want the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines banned. Sommers’ take on that, besides also declaring that the US would need even more pipelines in the future?

Each one of them is a magnet for obstruction and litigation.

Further, President-elect wants to make the US grid emissions free by 2035. So Sommers cited California’s blackouts last summer during heatwaves as a cautionary tale, and the API’s solution is natural gas. Instead of suggesting putting effort into updating the grid to be able to transmit green energy, he said:

California is trying to force an energy change that it simply isn’t ready for and technology doesn’t exist to support, putting its residents at risk.

No one should be surprised when reality keeps interfering.

That last sentence may turn out to be ironic.

A cry for help from the West

More than 100 elected officials in US western states have called on President-elect Joe Biden, Deb Haaland, and Congress in a letter, asking them to protect lands, fight the climate crisis, and support western communities.

The letter, which can be read here on The Mountain Pact’s website, who organized the letter, includes calls to halt new oil and gas leases and industry bailouts; support local governments in relief packages; restore protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; increase environmental and public health safeguards; and work to conserve 30% of US lands and waters by 2030.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Our communities are shouldering the burden of increased unemployment, added public lands infrastructure needs, and costly climate impacts. To address this untenable situation, the Biden administration and the new Congress should prioritize adopting reforms that will reverse the devastating impacts that the “energy dominance” agenda has had on Western mountain communities over the past four years. Public lands should no longer be given away for pennies on the dollar, financial support should be provided to local governments amidst the pandemic, and meaningful actions should be taken to both address the climate crisis and protect our public lands.

Some local officials weighed in on how climate change has affected their communities.

Mayor Jonathan Godes of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, said:

2020 was a hard year for Glenwood Springs. Between the quarry expansion and the Grizzly Creek Fire, our community has been dramatically impacted by a warming planet and the extraction industry. Our Federal government should prioritize helping small communities and businesses across the country, and focus on the new renewable energy economy.

Town of Hailey, Idaho council member Kaz Thea, said:

We have had significant wildfire impacts in our community and our entire community has been evacuated twice from large wildfires in the past several years. We have also seen flood impacts and early snow run off with spring conditions coming earlier and nights are overall warmer so our snow does not last as long. We have also been trending in a drought condition for many years which has impacted insect and disease infestation in our forests which then also increases wildfire risk. It’s a vicious cycle. Our mountain community will eventually lose its snow and lose our livelihood as being a skiing mountain town based on tourism if we do not reverse the impacts of climate change.

City of Moab, Utah Council Member Kalen Jones said:

COVID has been hard for a number of reasons and our community could use smarter federal help. Stimulus money, especially for small businesses and local governments, is still needed as we progress through the pandemic. Pre-2020 our vibrant economy was built on visitation to our beautiful public lands. Royalty relief and rampant leasing to subsidize fossil fuels sends counterproductive market signals, undermines Moab’s economy, is a distraction for our staff, council, and nonprofit partners, and is counter to our efforts to avoid the worst case outcomes of climate change.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.