May 25, 2017
A Little-Known Reason Why Consensus on Energy Policy Is Possible
Americans across the political and ideological divide may increasingly be drawn together around a common set of ideas and goals on energy policy, writes EPIC Executive Director Sam Ori in The Wall Street Journal.
By Sam Orivia The Wall Street Journal
Anyone who watched the results of the last election roll in, or who simply turns on cable news, would see a country enormously divided on key issues. And, judging by the rhetoric on coal jobs, environmental regulation and climate change, energy policy is no exception.
But the national dialogue is largely missing a revolutionary change in the energy industry that’s sweeping across the country, creating real opportunities for convergence. Driven by new resources and fuels, large swaths of the nation that historically accounted for very little in terms of energy investment and production are becoming major players. It is a trend that has already boosted local economies and could now be opening the door to a surprising possibility: Americans across the political and ideological divide may increasingly be drawn together around a common set of ideas and goals on energy policy.
Consider this: In 2004, on the eve of the shale-gas revolution, there were just 34 counties in the U.S. that produced more than 100 billion cubic feet of gas annually. By 2015, that number had surged to 80 counties. And while traditional producers like Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma accounted for a sizable share of the growth, 40% of the increase came from new production powerhouses like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
An even more dramatic story has unfolded in U.S. electricity markets. Less than a decade ago, the nation’s grid relied on a few hundred coal plants for more than half its power, and the large majority of that coal was mined in just three states. While we still get a third of our power from coal, the system has evolved into one that includes more than 50,000 utility-scale wind turbines and one million rooftop solar installations spread across the entire country. Today, these fuels account for less than 10% of U.S. power generation, but their share is growing rapidly as costs fall...