IEA: Policy, Innovation, and Flexibility Key to U.S. Energy Leadership

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing where International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol testified about his agency’s perspective on global energy markets. IEA, which was founded in 1974, now includes 30 member countries and is a leader on global energy policy and analysis.

“Over the past decade, the United States has transformed into a dominant player in global energy markets. We ended the arbitrary prohibition on domestic crude oil exports a few years ago. Since then, we have watched our exports take off and OPEC’s power start to decline – all while prices remained at low to moderate levels,” Murkowski said. “We have also continued our strong commitment to research and development, which allows the United States to be a technology driver with an impact that reaches far beyond our borders.”

Dr. Birol highlighted the significant strides made in the United States’ oil and gas industry, saying, “U.S. gas production increased by 12 percent, adding almost 10 bcf/d [billion cubic feet per day], the highest recorded production increase in absolute terms by any country, ever. U.S. LNG has already played a major role in expanding supply, improving security, and creating more efficient markets.”

Murkowski and Dr. Birol discussed the potential for an oil supply shortfall, the importance of good energy policy, the critical need to increase pipeline capacity in the U.S., and increasing demand for electricity. Dr. Birol noted the growing need for electricity systems to become “much more flexible” as we transition to cleaner energy sources like wind and solar and highlighted the important role nuclear power can play as a baseload source of energy.

“The baseload capacity of nuclear power plants also plays a major role in maintaining electricity security. This is especially true in the northern regions of the United States, which experience spikes in electricity and gas demand during extreme cold spells,” Dr. Birol said. “Without effective policy action, the United States will be on track to lose a substantial portion of its capacity. From my vantage point, this would be detrimental to both energy security and clean energy objectives.”

“As more of the world electrifies, we have an opportunity to build a supply that is more resilient, more affordable, and more reliable,” Murkowski said. “New technologies have substantially reduced our nation’s greenhouse gas emission levels. Which is why our most reasonable path forward to address climate change is lowering the cost of clean technologies – as opposed to burdensome new taxes or endless regulations.”

Murkowski concluded by asking Dr. Birol how the increased LNG production in the U.S. and the global Arctic has impacted the global energy markets.

“I see a huge opportunity for U.S. LNG, having a major market share in Asia, especially in replacing inefficient coal plants because the biggest headache today in China, India and Thailand…is the air pollution in the cities, local pollution in the cities. And natural gas may well be the key solution to all of those countries, and they’re building LNG terminals,” Dr. Birol said. “There will be a very harsh competition between the established exporters, such as Russia and the U.S. LNG, and I see many great opportunities for the U.S. LNG to have a good competition, bringing more flexibility to the markets.”

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of today’s hearing is available on the committee’s website. Click here, here, and here to view Murkowski’s questions for Dr. Birol.

Related Issues: Energy