CERAWeek 2023 by S&P Global: Podesta and Kerry rehash Biden talking points

Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief, World Oil March 09, 2023

(WO) - The White House sent its one-two punch of climate advocates down to Houston on Monday to re-educate those who may still doubt their mission, and the results were predictable. We refer to the appearances at “CERAWeek 2023 by S&P Global” (CERAWeek) of John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, and the ever-controversial John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Podesta cheerleads for Biden agenda. Podesta was the featured speaker at CERAWeek’s Monday luncheon, and while mentioning that economics and energy security were responsible for many recent technology innovations, he wasted no time in shifting to climate alarmist rhetoric.

“But let's not overstate the importance of the climate crisis,” said an earnest Podesta. “Last year alone, climate fueled extreme weather disasters in the U.S., and cost up to $165 billion in damage. The year before, it was $155 billion. Those numbers include damage to fossil fuels and fossil fuel energy infrastructure. In 2021, Hurricane Irene caused flooding and damage, along millions in lost revenue to oil refineries in Louisiana.”

Podesta then took pot shots at the oil and gas industry’s proactive moves to adapt to climate change. “On top of dealing with extreme weather, oil and gas companies are having to pay to adapt to climate change by raising offshore platforms in response to sea level rise and installing artificial [walls] around rigs and pipelines in the Arctic to combat permafrost,” he declared. “Instead of paying to adapt to a problem on their own, we think they can solve that problem, and we'll do that by producing clean energy.”

The Senior Advisor then lauded his boss. “Thanks to President Biden, there's never been a better time to invest in clean energy in America,” marveled Podesta. “Under the bipartisan infrastructure law, helping communities has made billions available for demonstration projects in energy technologies. Many of you are exploring carbon capture to clean hydrogen to industrial decarbonization. Through the CHIPS and Science Act, the Commerce Department is overseeing $50 billion in investments to the domestic semiconductor industry. A crucial ingredient now in solar and so much more.”

Podesta’s love for the poorly named Inflation Reduction Act then took center stage. “The inflation Reduction Act has some expanded tax credits for clean energy while making those technologies more affordable for working families. The president's vision for transforming the economy turns across all [of] these landmark pieces of legislation.”

He then turned the clean energy agenda over to the audience, remarking, “Then it's all up to all of you to grab the baton…so, many of you have already gotten in the game by diversifying your portfolio into offshore wind, sustainable aviation fuels, geothermal, and clean hydrogen… Now, you can grow your clean energy investments by taking advantage of these new laws and create good paying jobs while you're at it.”

Podesta did admit that one of the biggest hurdles to progress on any project, be it oil and gas or renewables, is federal permitting. He claimed that the Biden administration recognizes the problem and is actively working to clean up permitting processes.

Energy, according to Kerry. Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry could not resist jumping into an alarmist dialogue quickly. S&P Global Vice Chairman Dan Yergin asked Kerry whether UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, had a point that the oil and gas industry has a role to play in the energy transformation and to transform itself in that process. “Do you think that's possible? Is that something that needs to be pursued?, asked Yergin. Kerry proceeded to waffle on the question and change the direction of the conversation.

“Look, I think I think the most important thing to have here is a super-honest conversation, based on facts, without ideology, without any polarization or prejudice,” intoned the Special Presidential Envoy. “And it begins, I think, with a recognition of what we're trying to do. And I take this out of Sultan's speech, where he talked about science, math, and here's the math. You know, we're not doing this as an economic exercise. We're not doing this, because it sort of pleasures us or something. And it's being done, because there is an urgent, growing, catastrophic set of events unfolding before our eyes that tells a story, and it's a story that some people have been trying to tell for a long time.”

Kerry proceeded to name off various scientists and activists that have tried to sound the climate alarm over multiple centuries. He also couldn’t help giving himself a pat on the back for helping the effort. “And Al Gore and myself and Tim Wirth and some Republicans, because back then it was bipartisan. We heard that evidence back in 1988. It wasn't until 1992 that we went to Rio and took steps to do something about it. And then it fell on its face in Kyoto with the command-and-control response that was created from, you know, cap and trade. And now cap and trade is the third rail of American politics.”

It seemed that every reference Kerry made to the oil and gas industry was backhanded. For example, he told the crowd, “Folks, we can't do it (defeat climate change) without the oil and gas industry. Fifteen percent of the Earth's emissions that come from the burning of methane, etc., are attributable in the processes of the oil and gas industry. And that is number three. If they were a nation, they'd be the third-biggest emitter in the world. So, you have to get control of that process.”

To be fair, Kerry did acknowledge the technical innovations underway. “Now, I think something exciting is happening here,” he proclaimed. “I really mean that. I've been impressed by the conversations that I have had. Tomorrow, we'll meet with some execs from some of the companies. We need to not be polarized here. We need to collaborate. We need to bring people together. Everything Sultan said is correct. And I believe there are ways. We're not talking about ending the capacity of these industries to exist in order to be part of the solution. What we're saying is we have to change the byproduct of your business.”

But the conciliatory tone was short-lived. Later in his conversation with Yergin, Kerry suggested that the oil and gas industry should give more of its profits to the climate change fight, never mind that they have shareholders to answer to. “So, we need the industry and others to step up and say, hey, we got a little capital,” said the Envoy. “For instance, I think the profits of the last year-and-a-half, I know it can go like this---I've got knowledge. But there is, at least, a capacity there now to put in a few billion dollars. It would only take $1 billion, expended for the task of meeting our methane goal by 2030 to have the oil and gas industry fully meet the methane reduction needs of that period. Are you kidding me? One billion dollars will reduce the methane to meet the 2030 goal. We don't have the money.” The “we,” of course, was the federal government.

And so went the conversation further. We could add many more details on Kerry’s musings about a variety of topics, but space is short here, and you get the picture anyway.

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