Oil, gas exec sees energy landscape changing
Security taking precedence over shift to renewables, he says
CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATES and environmentalists would be quick to point out that Mike Sommers is not exactly a neutral observer when it comes to energy policy. As CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, Sommers is paid to advance the interests of the fossil fuel industry that is held up as a prime driver of climate change.
But with no secret about his angle on the issues, Sommers paid a visit this week to Boston and offered up what he might call an inconvenient truth: He said the nation’s rapid transition away from fossil fuels has been “mugged” by the energy reality of high gasoline prices and the war in Ukraine.
Sommers, who met with local energy industry officials and House Speaker Ron Mariano on Wednesday, said President Biden’s visit this week to Saudi Arabia dramatically illustrates the changing landscape.
When he campaigned for president, Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia pay the price for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi “and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” But now, with world oil markets tight and prices high at the gas pump, the president is going to Saudi Arabia to make nice.
The American Petroleum Institute executive says he believes climate change is real and needs to be addressed. But he also believes the United States needs an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy as it transitions away from fossil fuels. Sommers said the president should focus more on developing energy resources here at home – he has a 10-point plan — than going to the Saudis to ask them to do so.
“Most Americans think, yeah, we’re going to need this for a while and we should be getting it from our own backyard rather than begging regimes that may not have the best interest of our country at heart,” he said.
There is a local angle to the Sommers message. He said natural gas has backed coal-fired power plants out of New England and driven down costs and greenhouse gas emissions. He said the use of home heating oil could also be eliminated if only additional pipeline capacity could be built connecting the region to the vast gas reserves in Pennsylvania.
He also warns against efforts on Beacon Hill to let individual communities ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction, saying that approach will drive up costs.
Sommers says New England and the rest of the nation need more energy, not less, as they transition to a clean energy future. He says natural gas is needed as a backup for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.Asked how his meeting with Mariano went, Sommers said it was productive. “He’s a really practical lawmaker and he understands the importance of an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” he said.
Mariano’s office issued a statement saying “Sommers was in the building and stopped by the speaker’s office for a brief meet and greet. As you know, the House passed a transformative offshore wind bill that will help end our reliance on fossil fuels, creates jobs, and modernizes our grid in preparation for increased sources of renewable energy.”