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Senators: renew emphasis on energy production

West Virginia’s senators have taken this inflection point of national energy policy to advance an “all-of-the-above strategy” while also promoting continued use of fossil fuels.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, have described similar energy themes in recent hearings of committees where they are in leadership positions. Their remarks are in line with long-held positions but reflect particular concern about energy-rich Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Now, as much as ever, promoting America’s energy security is of the utmost importance,” Capito said last week in an opening statement in a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing about promoting American energy security. Capito is the ranking Republican member of that committee.

“Not only can the U.S. lead the way on energy development, we can do it responsibly and with lower emissions. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have steadily decreased, thanks primarily to the shale revolution and American ingenuity.”

But, Capito added, “to pave the way for another American energy revolution, we need to take concrete steps to look at this administration’s policies that are holding American energy producers back here at home to the benefit of hostile regimes with appalling environmental track records.”

Capito called for policies that encourage and use American production and innovation.

“We need to reduce unnecessary roadblocks to vital energy projects and infrastructure,” she said. “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that does include electric vehicles, renewables and all-of-the-above hydrogen development.”

Manchin, chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has made similar public remarks. He described Russian President Vladimir Putin as emboldened by European dependence on energy exports as Manchin delivered opening remarks at a committee hearing to examine the use of energy as a tool and a weapon.

“It is time for us to disarm Putin and other countries who have the ability to wield energy as a weapon. That includes the supply chains our energy systems rely on.”

Manchin applauded President Biden’s decision this month to ban imports of Russian oil, petroleum products, liquid natural gas and coal. “But now it’s time for us to hone how we strategically use energy as a geopolitical tool and for our national security.”

Manchin said this moment calls for rebuilding energy systems “in a way that makes us less reliant on actors attempting to subvert democracy and who undermine or threaten our allies and partners.” That approach calls for focus on domestic energy production, energy infrastructure and supply chain security, Manchin said.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Manchin is interested in reviving a signature policy of the Biden administration, focusing on an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy. Such a bill could include policies focusing on climate change, cutting prescription drug costs and updating the tax code.

Areas of discussion could be a renewed approach to oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as natural gas exports.

Manchin spent time in West Virginia earlier this month with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to promote aspects of the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Manchin’s remarks before the Energy Committee’s hearing on using energy as a tool and as a weapon described an immediate priority of increasing domestic oil and gas production on federal and non-federal lands.

He called for leaseholders to return to active drilling while also saying the administration needs to do more. That includes working on a new, five-year plan for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Manchin said “industry also needs signals from the administration that they will support oil and gas development and production.”

Manchin described a need to focus on infrastructure to get natural gas to market, including pipelines and export terminals. “Let me tell you, the Mountain Valley Pipeline could be completed in four months if it was finally given the green light,” Manchin said, naming a major pipeline project that would cross West Virginia.

While some of his emphasis is on promotion of fossil fuels, Manchin reiterated his support for other energy sources as well.

“Now let me make it clear that I am not saying to hell with our climate goals,” he said. “These actions are not all mutually exclusive. I am a firm believer in an all-of-the-above energy mix, and that we can and should be leading the world through innovation.”

Randy Albert, a Bluefield resident who is owner and CEO of Shale Advisory Group, agrees with an emphasis on infrastructure capacity for natural gas exports.

“At least from the northeast, the Appalachian basins — the Marcellus and the Utica — we are tapped out on infrastructure capacity,” Albert said last week on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“We’re awaiting the MVP, which is 97% complete and would take the capacity up to about 35 bcf a day out of the basin. But who knows when that’s going to get finished. It’s mired in legal challenges. We’re just short on takeaway capacity.”

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