In prepared comments, President Trump said “We have ended the war on American energy – and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.”
Two sentences, three dubious assertions.
There has never been a war on American Energy. President Obama advocated an “all of the above” energy strategy and during his presidency, the private sector drove a huge increase in shale oil and shale-gas production.
It’s true that environmental groups have sought to roll back the use of fossil fuels, especially coal. But the main war on coal — if there has been one — has been waged by the natural gas industry, which has been undercutting coal with cheap prices. Since Trump was elected, 27 coal plants across the country have announced they will retire, according to the Sierra Club.
The president also mentioned “clean coal.” There is no such thing as clean coal. Mining coal is dirty, imperiling streams and landscapes. Companies that burn coal can make it cleaner by installing scrubbers, as required by environmental laws. But usually when people talk about “clean coal” they’re talking about a process that separates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the flue of a coal plant and burying it in the ground.
However, that can only be done at high costs and only makes sense in a limited number of places where carbon dioxide can be used in enhanced oil recovery and left in reservoirs underground. The administration has shown little interest in appropriating money for additional research into separating and storing carbon dioxide.
Finally, the president is technically right, but incomplete, when he says the United States is an exporter of energy to the world.
“The United States has always been a resource abundant country,” said Sarah Ladislaw, a senior fellow for energy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And while the administration is right to see energy as a source of strength, exporting natural resources is not a sufficient strategy for ensuring the U.S. can compete long-term in this dynamic energy landscape, protect the United States or our allies from global supply disruption, or create sufficient economic opportunity and job creation at home.”
The United States exports crude oil, thanks to a lifting of the crude oil export ban that Congress sent a reluctant President Obama in December 2015. And thanks to a boom in shale gas and the construction of new liquefied natural gas export facilities (with permits issued by the Obama administration), the United States is exporting natural gas. These developments will make the global energy marketplace more efficient.
But the United States is still a major net importer of petroleum. It imports about 4 million barrels a day of crude oil. That’s only half of the peak year in 2005, but it’s still more than 30 percent of U.S. consumption.
It is also more than the oil output of all but four other countries. Only China imports more petroleum. In addition, the United States still imports LNG in certain regions and under certain circumstances. Just last week, after a severe cold snap in New England, a tanker with LNG from Russia’s Arctic arrived to unload its cargo in Boston.