Our path to balancing global energy transition and continued energy security creates a maze of challenges. We need to ensure the measures we take to solve the complex technological questions and soaring demand for energy worldwide results in continued energy security on a global basis.
North America has the resources and the innovative workforce to solve both challenges. However, we lack one critical component: energy policies that enable us to safely and securely unlock the global energy transition.
To fulfill our potential to deliver transformative global solutions, we must start thinking smarter and more creatively. There are two simple ideas that should serve as the foundation.
First, sustainable energy policy must focus on addition rather than subtraction.
A small but vocal class of policymakers and interest groups demand we use regulation to rapidly choke the supply of natural gas to coerce the development of lower emitting alternatives. This concept ignores the real-world consequences.
Traditional energy sources are critical to keeping pace with increasing demand. Even using the most optimistic estimates for the growth of renewable energy, blocking the development of traditional energy projects will lead to disruptive energy shortages and soaring costs across North America.
At the same time, these policymakers and interest groups refuse to support the building of newer and cleaner traditional energy projects, like liquified natural gas (LNG), which has the adverse effect of forcing consumers to rely on older energy sources — like coal — that produce far greater emissions.
This sequence is playing out in Europe today. In the scramble to replace Russian gas, leaders are seeking refuge in accessible sources of energy regardless of their environmental impact. Germany for instance, has reopened or extended more than 20 coal-fired power plants to meet demand this winter. This creates insecurity across the region and does nothing to aid in the progress toward sustainable energy solutions.
There are no shortcuts in the global energy transition. Continuous access to affordable and reliable energy is essential as we safely and securely progress toward our ability to meet demand with lower emitting sources of energy.
The second critical idea we must adopt is to stop labelling energy sources as “good” or “bad” and, instead, evaluate them on whether they are lower emitting than the energy sources they replace.
LNG is unquestionably the world’s best tool for rapidly reducing worldwide emissions. The LNG we export around the world reduces reliance on coal, which was responsible for 40 percent of the overall growth in global carbon emissions last year.
LNG has received a surge of attention amid Europe’s energy crisis, but its potential stretches far beyond the current moment. From Mexico to Asia, expanding LNG will continue energy security and dramatically reduce emissions. Refusing to expand LNG exports locks nations around the world into coal, high-sulfur diesel, and other damaging energy sources for decades to come.
Our policies must recognize that climate change is a global challenge. Achieving a small decline in domestic emissions does not constitute progress if it triggers a net increase in global emissions.
Unfortunately, short-sighted policies prevent us from securely building the energy infrastructure needed to deliver lower emitting energy to consumers across North America and around the world.
The U.S. leads the way in global LNG exports. Yet there is currently not enough existing infrastructure to meet global demand.
Allowing for the development of modern energy infrastructure projects will unlock the potential for cleaner gas, while, at the same time, creating the foundation for expanding hydrogen and other new energy sources that need to be moved safely and efficiently from producers to consumers. It balances energy security with energy transition.
Policymakers can take several important steps — from fixing the broken permitting process to reassessing how energy projects are categorized. The most important shift is to change our collective mindset. We must focus on safely and securely cultivating an abundance of lower emitting options rather than imposing scarcity and passively hoping for the best.
We need influential voices to reject archaic and oversimplified political debates and embrace a more enlightened approach to delivering energy security and fulfilling our collective climate goals. Our shared goal of achieving a real and sustainable global energy transition relies on ensuring continued stability. They aren't mutually exclusive. We can't successfully achieve the transition without stability.
North America has the resources, ingenuity, and responsibility to safely and securely provide the world with clean energy. It will take strong leaders with vision, insight, and courage to confront this challenge and enable a secure and sustainable energy future.
Poirier is the President and Chief Executive Officer of TC Energy, a founding member of the Partnership to Address Global Emissions (PAGE).