Coal is priority for Trump admin., US Energy Sec. says
- "We can have a cleaner environment and a strong, prosperous nation," U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry says

Coal is a priority for the U.S. President Donald Trump administration's agenda for energy security and the economy, the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said Tuesday.

Despite the reduction in coal production worldwide and the U.S., and global efforts to curb CO2 emissions, the U.S. government is still very focused on increasing domestic coal output.

With former President Barack Obama's green initiatives, the U.S. has shifted much of its energy portfolio from coal to natural gas; nevertheless, Trump is focused on bringing back coal production.

"Coal is the most abundant energy source in our country," Perry said during a press conference on The Central Role of the United States in Global Energy Markets & Energy Security held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"We believe that all-of-the above approach is needed -- one that promotes American jobs, prosperity and energy security ... We can have a cleaner environment and a strong, prosperous nation. We do not need to sacrifice one for the other," he added.

Between 2010 and 2016, 251 coal plants in the U.S. were retired out of a total of 523, according to the environmental organization, the Sierra Club. This means 48 percent of all coal plants were closed over seven years, leaving 272 still operational.

U.S. natural gas production, however, rose 24 percent to 747 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2016, from 603 bcm in 2010. Between those seven years, coal production in the country fell 32 percent, from 1.08 billion short tons to 0.73 billion short tons, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Coal production in the U.S. last year, on the other hand, reached its lowest annual level since 1978, according to EIA data.

Yet, Trump has been adamant about reopening coalmines and bringing back jobs to the coal industry.

With campaign promises of "unleashing an energy revolution" and bringing back coal mines in the U.S., Trump managed last year to win eight of the top nine coal producing states in the presidential elections.

"Since President Trump took office on Jan. 20, the U.S. has witnessed increased production of oil, natural gas and coal, job additions to the oil, gas and the coal sectors, greater natural gas exports -- both LNG and via pipeline exports -- and greater year-to-year coal exports," Perry said.

"We have contributed to curbing global CO2 emissions through the increased use of natural gas, the use of cleaner burning coal, the use of nuclear, hydro, renewables in our power portfolio," he added.

LNG will continue to be a major driver of jobs, a major driver of U.S. energy governance and a major driver in emission reductions, Perry noted, while on the other hand adding that the market will also see more coal used in the world.

On the question of whether the U.S. will put more restrictions on natural gas as the country helps revive coal and nuclear power, Perry declared that he does not think that it is necessarily the governments’ role to be picking "winners and losers".

"It is not like coal is being pushed down from the market, but you are going to see coal used in the world. Our goal is to use the cleanest technology that we can and generally speaking that technology is going to come from the U.S.," he asserted.

Perry also argued that for customers in Europe, it is very important to know that they have more than one LNG option.

"It is a good thing to be able to send that message around the globe that the U.S. is going to be a source of LNG," he added.

While much of the reduction in CO2 emissions in the U.S. came during Obama's tenure, Trump has also withdrawn his country from the Paris Climate Agreement at the beginning of June.

Perry argued that the U.S. is leading the world in clean energy, and added that the U.S. is "... working to develop innovative and cost-effective technologies that reduce coal emissions and increase efficiency."

- "The biggest decline in CO2 emissions worldwide came from the U.S."

International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol, who was also present at the press conference, said it is possible to achieve global economic growth, without increasing CO2 emissions.

"When you look at history, global emissions of CO2 increased each year, when the global economy grew. But, in the last three years, from 2014 to 2016, global CO2 emissions were flat, they didn't increase, even though the global economy grew," Birol said.

"For example, in 2016, global emissions were flat, but the global economy increased around 3 percent," he added.

The IEA head emphasized that last year investments in renewables in the U.S. represented about half of the country's investments in the oil and gas sector put together.

"The U.S. has become the second-largest market for solar and wind globally," he said.

While investments in the renewable energy sector look optimistic, both in the U.S. and around the world, the level of investment in global oil market shows a different picture.

Due to significant low oil prices since mid-2014, the global oil industry has seen fewer investment amounts in the past two years.

"In the last two years, 2015 and 2016, for two years in a row, global oil investment declined about 50 percent, which we have never seen in history. The question is whether we are going to see a big [investment] rebound in 2017," Birol said.

The IEA, unfortunately, does not expect a rebound in this respect; but estimates that global oil investments will remain flat this year, compared to last year, according to Birol.

The U.S.' investment in its oil industry, on the other hand, is forecast to see an investment increase.

"When you look at the biggest established producers, like Russia and countries in the Middle East, you see either decline or small increases in their oil investments. But, we see the 2017 U.S. shale oil investment increases by more than 50 percent," Birol explained.

The U.S.' oil production has been hit hard by low oil prices in the past two years, but American shale oil producers recovered their output rapidly.

Crude oil output in the U.S. reached 9.4 million barrels per day (bpd) for the week ending July 7, according to the EIA. This level is close to the record 9.6 million bpd set in 1970.

Technology, innovation, and cost reductions in the American shale sector played a significant role in U.S. shale producers adapting to the low-price environment.

"Two years ago, to produce one barrel of shale oil [in the U.S.] was around $70. Today, oil prices around $40 would be enough to make a significant amount of production from shale oil," Birol said.

In natural gas, the U.S. is also making headway in becoming a major actor in the global gas market.

"U.S. shale gas, together with conventional gas, will be responsible for about 40 percent of the global gas production growth," Birol said, adding, "In five years, the U.S. will be one of the top-3 LNG exporters in the world, with Qatar and Australia."

The IEA head also underlined that the biggest decline in the CO2 emissions worldwide came from the U.S., mainly as a result of shale gas, renewables, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants and nuclear power.

Birol highlighted that U.S. emissions were down by more than 300 million tonnes, which he said is definitely a "very decent number."

"The decline is equal to all the world's emissions coming from transportation sector growth. So the world's trucks, cars, planes… If you put the emissions coming from there, it is about 300 million tonnes and U.S. offset that by the performance in the last three years," he explained.

"I can say that when we look at the U.S., Mexico and Canada, we are in North America entering an age of energy prosperity and we believe, looking at these countries, they can play an extremely important role for global energy markets and global energy security," he said.

By Ovunc Kutlu in New York, Ebru Sengul in Ankara

Anadolu Agency



19 Jul,2017