API: California’s Rolling Blackouts Cements the Case for Natural Gas

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

According to the largest U.S. trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, rolling blackouts imposed upon California residents cemented the argument that anti-consumer government policies and extreme environmentalism have prevented natural gas from supplying the power consumers need.

The recent blackouts should be a clear call that electric reliability becomes even more complicated in major energy transition times, noted officials from the American Petroleum Institute (API).

That reliability planning should be fuel and technology blind, they said, offering that California’s energy future can be bright, and natural gas is there to back it up. API’s vigilance and concern for California — and America as a whole — is one reason why the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) has maintained a strategic partnership with the organization, said NNPA President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

“The NNPA considers our ongoing partnership with API to be strategically and vitally important across the United States given the 2020 realities of electrical energy shortages in states like California and in others where the demand for energy is increasing,” Dr. Chavis stated.

“Natural gas companies in particular today are helping to improve the quality of life in our communities.”

API officials have consistently maintained that natural gas remains “an essential partner in the growth of intermittent renewable sources, providing reliable power when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.”

The organization maintains that it’s the primary reason that U.S. carbon emissions are at 25-year lows.

Thanks to natural gas, they argue, the air we breathe is the cleanest of the modern era and continues to improve.

“If — as they claim — California regulators are motivated by a cleaner environment, then natural gas must be a foundation for the future of the state’s energy policy,” wrote Jessica Lutz.

Ironically, Lutz penned that comment two years ago.

In August, API officials remarked that the rolling blackouts in California were not the result of a “perfect storm, as some officials claim., but of poor planning.”

According to API, California’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades spotlighted its mandates for how much electricity certain technologies can provide.

The state’s renewables mandate has played a role in their misery, according to API.

By requiring that 60 percent of California’s electricity must come from renewables – energy from sources that are naturally replenishing but flow-limited – by 2030 and through green energy subsidies, the state has seen the competitive balance tilt away from other, more flexible power sources, including cleaner natural gas.

During daytime hours, California enjoys a surplus in solar energy. But power demand doesn’t work just 9 to 5, according to Mark Green of API. People still want and need to be comfortable in their homes at night, and during the recent heatwave, there hasn’t been enough electricity to go around, Green noted in a blog post at API.org.

“The practical result has been rolling blackouts, rationing of energy so to speak, leaving lots of Californians simmering,” he observed.

API officials opined that there was “lots of blame to go around.”

“While there is no single culprit behind the blackouts, what happened showed just how vital natural gas generation is to maintain a fully functioning grid, because of its reliability and unique operating characteristics.”

Significantly, API pronounced that California’s blackouts revealed that power generation mandates do not overrule the complex engineering needs of a robust, reliable, and affordable power system.

If these needs aren’t met, the power grid can quickly deteriorate – even in the world’s fifth-largest economy, industry officials wrote in an unpublished memo.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom said it right: This failure of planning is unacceptable. Every Californian deserves reliable energy and fuels for our homes and businesses. We deserve public servants who stand up to ineffective regulators and hysterical activists,” API officials wrote.

The organization said it believes without stronger leadership, it’s likely blackouts will increase.

API advocates for leaders they said would acknowledge that oil and gas must be part of California’s near-term energy mix.

“Policies that demonize oil, natural gas, and the people working in our industry are not only unhelpful; they do nothing to provide safe, affordable, and reliable energy,” the organization stated.

Further, it’s important to note that natural gas is an essential partner to renewables, API officials added. “It’s one reason so many oil and gas companies are bringing them online. We need more policymakers who will admit as others have that decisions should be made because of science, not political science,” the organization contended.

According to the International Energy Agency, the bottom line is that natural gas provides reliable, cleaner, and affordable fuel to generate electricity and is the primary reason the U.S. has reduced carbon dioxide emissions more than any other nation since 2000.

Natural gas’s capacity to start immediately and ramp up rapidly, its overall resilience and other qualities also make it an essential partner for intermittent renewable energy growth – an especially important point to folks living in the Golden State right now according to API officials.

“What we have now is more than a decade’s worth of evidence showing that displacing coal with a combination of low-cost, natural gas and increasingly affordable, renewable energy is a fantastic winning recipe for rapid and significant emissions reductions,” noted Dustin Meyer, API’s director of Market Development.

Green further wrote, “Lest anyone accuse us of picking on California, the issue is larger than just one state. There, summer presents electricity challenges.”

In New England, which lacks sufficient natural gas infrastructure – too often because of policy choices – the crunch is in winter, Green explained.

“Neither should happen in a country that leads the world in natural gas and oil production,” he concluded.

“With the United States’ abundant energy reserves and industry technology and know-how, we shouldn’t be reading about rolling summer blackouts in one region or winter heat shortages in another.”

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