HARRISBURG, Pa. (WETM) – As leaders around the globe struggle to cut off Russia from its oil and gas revenues, Pennsylvania Republicans have pinned the Commonwealth as the solution to the world’s current energy crisis.
Pennsylvania is after all the second-largest natural gas producer in the U.S.
“President Biden and other world leaders are looking to countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia—countries that do not share our values—to increase production and make up the difference, they really should be looking to places like Pennsylvania,” said the state’s House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin).
On Tuesday, Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports, eliminating an annual 245 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products from entering the country. Pennsylvania Republicans say the state would be able to make up the difference, outlining legislative plans to divest from Russia by ramping up energy production within the state.
However, it’s a mere drop in the bucket. According to the last report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania is producing 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day, Which totals 7.3 million barrels per year.
“Pennsylvania’s peak production is about 7 million barrels, so Russia’s 245 million barrels… we would have to increase production 35 times over just to make up for that Russian oil, that we in Pennsylvania do not have the capability to do ” stated Rob Altenburg, Senior Director for Energy & Climate, at PennFuture.
Republicans go further and say Pennsylvania can end Europe’s dependency on Russia.
“Pennsylvania can end Europe’s dependence on Russia for its natural gas. We can produce the gas, transport it, and with smart policy and investment, export it,” said Rep. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington).
The European Union is heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels, importing 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2021. The state would have to increase production by 760,000 times in order to fully cover that loss.
“We can’t just turn on a switch and just make this happen…this is a multi, multi, year project to do this sort of thing it would cost billions of dollars,” said Altenburg.
A report indicated the White House was planning a visit to Saudi Arabia to convince the country to increase the production of oil. Pennsylvania Republicans are wondering why Biden is trying to outsource from countries that do not share the same values.
“We have abundant energy resources we can scale up and expand upon right under our feet. Unlike Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, we share a commitment to freedom, human rights, and individual liberty,” said Rep. Benninghoff.
Another problem is that the world is moving away from fossil fuels. The EU has set climate targets to be carbon neutral by 2050. The Biden administration similarly has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.
However, any investment in oil and gas production goes against these targets. Climate experts say increasing energy production at all right now will only create a bigger problem.
“We are not in a situation where we can say we need to increase production for now and then sometime later we can decrease production, that doesn’t work,” said Altenburg.
According to a proposal by the United Nations, to keep global warming to no more than 34.7°F (1.5°C) as called for in the Paris Agreement, emissions need to reach net-zero by 2050. Meaning every time carbon is emitted, it needs to be offset to average out to zero.
“If we start to build new fossil fuel infrastructure today it makes it either impossible to hit the goals to protect the planet, or it’s just going to make it harder and more expensive,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnviroment. “The idea of investing in 19th-century energy technology in the 21st century really makes no sense.”
Experts say true energy independence is not domestic production of fossil fuels, it’s complete elimination. Increased dependency on gas, in turn, only puts consumers even more at the mercy of the volatility of its market.
As gas users are seeing in today’s market, the crisis in Ukraine combined with inflation has increased gas prices to record-highs.
“When it comes to fossil fuels…consumers at the end of the day will always end up paying the price for that volatility and reactive type of marketplace,” said Masur. “If you’re an electric vehicle owner today, you are no feeling that volatility from what’s happening in eastern Europe and I think that it shows that we have to set a different course.”
Pennsylvania Republicans have been pushing for increased energy production in the state long before the war in Ukraine began.
“To exploit what’s happening in Ukraine as the supposed impetus for policies to bail them out… It’s really outrageous I think…It’s disappointing that they would put their short-term profits and the health of our planet above the common-sense policies that we need,” said Masur.