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Morgan Griffith: Democrats target natural gas

morgan griffith
Morgan Griffith

Natural gas is a core fuel for the modern world. It is used to heat homes, power the electric grid, and make manufactured products, including plastics.

The United States has enjoyed a boom in natural gas for more than a decade. Advances in drilling technology and energy-friendly Trump Administration policies expanded the supply and drove prices down. Our country became a leading supplier of the fuel around the world.

Recent months have presented some ominous indicators, however, with prices rising and shortages increasing. A September 19 Wall Street Journal article explained:

Natural-gas prices have surged, prompting worries about winter shortages and forecasts for the most expensive fuel since frackers flooded the market more than a decade ago.

The supply deficit is particularly acute in Europe, where inventories are thin thanks to hot weather, lackluster wind-power generation and lower imports from Russia. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Samantha Dart said that stockpiles in northwestern Europe have recently been about 24% below average.

The United States so far has been insulated from these price shocks due to our country’s robust production. But some of the culprits for higher prices in Europe resulted either from the policies of President Biden and congressional Democrats or policies they would like to pursue domestically.

Ironically, if these trends continue and gas prices remain high, the Biden Administration will have restored coal as the country’s lowest-cost fuel source.

Much of Europe depends on Russia for gas supplies, giving Russia leverage on the international stage. It has weaponized its dominant position in the gas market before against other countries such as Ukraine. The Trump Administration realized this fact, which is why it staunchly promoted American gas exports and fought against the completion of the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline in Europe.

The Biden Administration, in contrast, dropped its opposition to Nord Stream 2. The pipeline’s completion allows Russia to consolidate its dominance of the gas market in Europe. The reduced imports from Russia now contributing to Europe’s gas crisis indicate the dire consequences that can result from the administration’s failure to lead.

The “lackluster wind-power generation” described by the Wall Street Journal could also be a fact of life here should Democrats get their way. Despite the inadequacies of wind and solar power, the energy agenda of President Biden would favor them while discouraging more resilient and affordable power sources such as natural gas, coal, and nuclear.

Included in the Democrat $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill is $150 billion for a Clean Electricity Performance Program, a backdoor way to set national energy standards. The program works by providing money to utilities that meet the bill’s aggressive thresholds for incorporating renewable power sources into their energy mix year after year until 2030.

Among the problems with the program is that it would remake the electrical grid faster than the grid can realistically be built to handle the renewables. A larger percentage of power would be comprised of wind and solar, intermittent sources that cannot always be relied upon. When they fail, other fuel sources such as natural gas or coal would be deployed to fill the gap, potentially increasing the price of energy across the board.

In addition to this poorly conceived and unrealistic program, the reconciliation bill pours salt in the wound by including a tax on – you guessed it – natural gas. Considering the many uses of natural gas, this tax would surely raise costs. Energy bills alone would increase from $85 to $242 per year, according to the American Gas Association, at a time when higher inflation is already eating away at family budgets. Increased home energy bills would accompany the soaring gasoline prices you pay when fueling your car at the pump.

These provisions threaten job creation and economic growth while providing little benefit to the environment. I opposed them when they came before the Energy and Commerce Committee in September, and I will continue to stand up against them as long as Democrats continue to pursue them.

Unfortunately, there is little reason to think the Democrats will back away from this approach. Since taking office in January, the Biden Administration has made it harder for the American energy sector by actions such as suspending new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, ending the Keystone XL pipeline, and rejoining the Paris climate agreement.

If this agenda is pursued, it will bring to a close the era of American energy dominance, an era that benefited our citizens every day through lower fuel costs and new jobs.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.