Natural gas producers are still trying to convince policymakers that they have no plans to shift to alternative fuels, as the world transitions to renewable energy sources.
The industry is also attempting to convince Americans that they will continue to supply them with natural gas even as emissions from its production continue to rise.
“I think it’s going to be very hard for a few years to get any sort of real policy commitment that would lead to any meaningful shift to renewable sources of energy, as they will be much more expensive and will have a longer term effect,” says Matt Boudreau, CEO of the U.S. Gas Alliance, which represents the country’s largest natural gas producers.
“It will be more challenging for that to happen.”
In December, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Energy to set a goal of reducing U.N. greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2030 and by 35% by 2050.
This year, he set aside $500 million for an initiative that will fund a national gas pipeline project.
But while Trump is calling for more energy independence from foreign countries, the industry is not.
It has been working to convince the public that its business model depends on supplying the country with natural-gas.
A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that the gas lobby spends far more on lobbying than it does on other advocacy efforts.
Its total spending on lobbying in the past five years totaled $15.5 million.
That is far more than the $9.7 million that the National Rifle Association spent in the same period.
Boudreau argues that this is a reflection of the industry’s desperation to keep pace with renewables, and the industry believes it has a real shot at meeting the Trump goal.
“This is a case of industry telling the public we’re in a tough spot and that we need to take a little bit of a risk,” he says.
“And the answer is, well, that’s a really big risk.”
The Gas Alliance has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress to make it harder for it to obtain a permit to import natural gas from Canada.
That bill was defeated in the House last year.
But Boudauer says the company is not giving up.
“The industry is going to continue to work to protect this industry,” he said.
“I can’t imagine that we’re going to stop trying to protect it, but the bottom line is that we don’t want to stop.”
While the industry has lobbied Congress for more than three decades, Boudier says it is unlikely that the industry will ever achieve what it has sought for decades.
He says that despite Trump’s pledge to end carbon pollution from the power sector, the government has continued to put the brakes on the industry and make it difficult for it even to get a permit.
“That’s one of the reasons why I think we’re actually going to have a hard time getting a federal permit,” he adds.
The American Petroleum Institute is among the largest and most powerful players in the industry.
Its president, Rex Tillerson, was a major supporter of Trump during the presidential campaign.
But in his first month in office, he was not involved in any major lobbying, and he has not had much interaction with the Trump administration on climate change issues.
“We’ve been focused on protecting our business model for many, many years, and I think that that will continue,” says Philip J. Pincus, the organization’s vice president for government affairs.
“But at the same time, I think the Trump Administration is focused on putting a more aggressive and aggressive agenda on energy issues, and so that’s really why we have to focus on the environment.”
Tillerson’s successor, Rick Perry, has said that the Trump-era administration will work to expand U.K. shale gas production.
But Pincs says the industry does not have a strategy for meeting the new President’s goal of cutting emissions.
“It’s hard for the industry to convince a Trump administration to put forward policies that are actually going for the climate and reducing emissions, especially given that they’re still so dependent on imports,” he explains.
“What’s the alternative?
I mean, you’re still going to get coal.
You’re still gonna get oil.
So there’s still a lot of other things you need to do.”