As Gas Becomes a Central Topic in Europe Because of the Ukraine Crisis, a Reminder that Gas is Essential to Our Energy Future

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Russian troops have amassed along its 1200 mile plus border with Ukraine, prompting not only fears of an imminent invasion but also a reminder that Vladimir Putin’s Russia provides Europe, particularly Germany, with 40% of its natural gas supply. Moreover, it’s prompted many leaders in Europe to ponder the uneasy question; what will happen to this supply if they come down too harshly on Russia over its ongoing dispute with Ukraine?

The recent events on the Ukraine/Russian border have illustrated to U.S. and European policymakers the role natural gas will play in the new global energy economy and the importance of having a reliable infrastructure to meet demand.

Worries about the reliability of the Russian supply are precisely why the U.S., Qatar, and the world’s other major natural gas exporters are scrambling to ensure Europe has access to this critical energy source if Putin decides to turn off the tap. 

Yet, even as the U.S. and others rush to find Germany and Western Europe an alternative supply of natural gas, the Energy and Policy Institute, through mouthpieces such as Daniel Tait, and others continue to stubbornly disparage gas and criticize utilities and regulators who support the use of a fuel that will be a bridge to the new energy economy.  

The Energy and Policy Institute’s adamant opposition to the use of natural gas is somewhat ironic. Why? Because Germany’s chief proponents of using natural gas as a bridge fuel are Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck and Environment Minister Steffi Lemke. Both are high-ranking members of Germany’s Green Party. The Institute, which has refused for years to disclose who pays for the work of Tait and others, has long been rumored to be funded by solar power interests. 

If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy and arguably Europe’s leader on seeking aggressive carbon reductions, sees a viable role for natural gas as a bridge fuel, shouldn’t policy makers in the U.S. and green activists do the same?   

Of course, and it’s already happening!  

In September 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 423, which essentially defines natural gas as carbon neutral for the sake of incorporating renewable energy into the grid.  And on the heels of declaring a state of emergency for the California grid last July, the Governor paved the way for the California Energy Commission to approve licenses for five emergency gas generators for up to five years to shore up the resiliency of the state’s grid. These emergency energy resources are in addition to the El Segundo Energy Center, which came online in 2013 to ramp up or down quickly with natural gas to accommodate the shifting supply of renewable energy.

Europe’s appetite for natural gas and California’s reliance on it to shore up its grid reliability is why we’ve advocated for a robust natural gas infrastructure as we transition into a carbon-reduced new energy economy.

It’s why we’ve supported the forward-thinking efforts to bring a more reliable natural gas infrastructure to millions of Alabama ratepayers.  It’s why we’ve supported the upgrade of Line 5 in Michigan, ensuring the delivery of affordable and reliable natural gas to the “energy remote” regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And it’s why we called for former New York Governor Cuomo’s Administration to permit the construction of additional natural gas pipeline capacity in his state.

It’s clear that both the U.S. and Europe need a robust natural gas infrastructure based on the German government’s recent pronouncement and California’s policy moves over the last several years. Both have illustrated the role natural gas will play as a transitional fuel. Sensible leaders understand the role of natural gas moving forward, which leaves one to wonder whether criticism from voices like Tait and the Energy and Policy Institute isn’t more about the agenda of their secret funders than good energy policy.