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Shellenberger: Climate Panic Driving Energy Crisis

gulf oil rig

I was delighted to be invited to testify before the United States Congress for the seventh time in two years. Below are my oral remarks.

Good morning Chairwoman Maloney, Environment Subcommittee Chairman Khanna, and Ranking Member Comer, and members of the Committee. I am grateful to you for inviting my testimony. [bold, links added]

I share this committee’s concern with climate change and misinformation. It is for that reason that I have, for more than 20 years, conducted energy analysis, worked as a journalist and advocated for renewables, coal-to-natural gas switching, and nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions.

At the same time, I am deeply troubled by the way concern over climate change is being used to repress domestic energy production. The U.S. is failing to produce sufficient quantities of natural gas and oil for ourselves and our allies.

The result is the worst energy crisis in 50 years, continuing inflation, and harm to workers and consumers in the U.S. and the Western world.

Energy shortages are already resulting in rising social disorder and the toppling of governments, and they are about to get much worse.

We should do more to address climate change but in a framework that prioritizes energy abundance, reliability, and security. Climate change is real and we should seek to reduce carbon emissions.

But it’s also the case that U.S. carbon emissions declined 22% between 2005 and 2020, global emissions were flat over the last decade, and weather-related disasters have declined since the beginning of this century.

There is no scientific scenario for mass death from climate change. A far more immediate and dangerous threat is insufficient energy supplies due to U.S. government policies and actions aimed at reducing oil and gas production.

The Biden administration claims to be doing all it can to increase oil and natural gas production, but it’s not. It has issued fewer leases for oil and gas production on federal lands than any other administration since World War II.

It blocked the expansion of oil refining. It is using environmental regulations to reduce liquified natural gas production and exports.

It has encouraged greater production by Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and other OPEC nations, rather than in the U.S. And its representatives continue to emphasize that their goal is to end the use of fossil fuels, including the cleanest one, natural gas, thereby undermining private sector investment.

If this committee is truly concerned about corporate profits and misinformation, then it must approach the issue fairly. The big tech companies make larger profits than big oil but have for some reason not been called to account.

Nor has there been any acknowledgment that the U.S. oil and gas industry effectively subsidized American consumers to the tune of $100 billion per year for most of the last 12 years, resulting in many bankruptcies and financial losses.

As for misinformation about climate change and energy, it is rife on all sides, and I question whether the demands for censorship by big tech firms are being made in good faith, or are consistent with the rights protected by the First Amendment. 

Efforts by the Biden administration and Congress to increase reliance on weather-dependent renewable energies and electric vehicles (EVs) risk undermining American industries and helping China.

China has more global market share of the production of renewables, EVs, and their material components than OPEC has over global oil production. It would be a grave error for the U.S. to sacrifice its hard-won energy security for dependence on China for energy.

While I support the repatriation of those industries to the U.S., doing so will take decades, not years. Increased costs tied to higher U.S. labor and environmental standards could further impede their development.

There are also significant underlying physical problems with renewables, stemming from their energy-dilute, material-intensive nature, that may not be surmountable.

Already we have seen that their weather dependence, large land requirements, and large material throughput result in renewables making electricity significantly more expensive everywhere they are deployed at scale.

The right path forward would increase oil and natural gas production in the short and medium terms, and increase nuclear production in the medium to long terms.

The U.S. government is, by extending and expanding heavy subsidies for renewables, and expanding control over energy markets, but without a clear vision for the role of oil, gas, and nuclear.

We should seek a significant expansion of natural gas and oil production, pipelines and refineries to provide greater energy security for ourselves, and to produce in sufficient quantities for our allies.

We should seek a significant expansion of nuclear power to increase energy abundance and security, produce hydrogen, and one day phase out the use of all fossil fuels.

All references can be found in my full testimony, which draws on much of what I have published here on Substack over the last 18 months. To read my full testimony, please click here.


Michael Shellenberger is the best-selling author of “Apocalypse Never” and “San Fransicko“, Time Magazine’s “Hero of Environment”, Green Book Award Winner, and Founder of Environmental Progress.

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