- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry is warning oil and gas producers to not “wind up on the wrong side” of climate change.

Mr. Kerry, who serves as President Biden’s special envoy for climate, told industry leaders Tuesday at the nation’s largest energy conference, CERAWeek, that they have to transcend oil and natural gas to survive. 

“You don’t want to be sitting there with a lot of stranded assets,” he told the conference, which is hosted by IHS Markit. “You’re gonna wind up on the wrong side of this battle.” 

The former secretary of state argued that technological advancements have opened up “huge opportunities” for cleaner forms of energy. Most notably, Mr. Kerry championed the potential of carbon-free hydrogen initiatives, which proponents of tackling climate change believe could become an alternative to natural gas. 

During his remarks, Mr. Kerry went a step further by imploring oil and gas companies to use their “incredible infrastructure” to produce “hydrogen in a way that isn’t so damaging and carbon-intensive.”

“They ought to be figuring out how do we become not an oil-and-gas company, but how do we become an energy company,” the former secretary of state said. 

Mr. Kerry also added that those in attendance should heed his call and avoid fighting “to hold onto whatever the market share” of oil and gas that already exists.

“There is still some resistance to this transition and that’s something we can’t afford anymore,” he said. 

His remarks come as the Biden White House and congressional Democrats have signaled that tackling climate change will be a major policy priority over the next four years. Mr. Biden hinted at his administration’s ambitions recently when rejoining the Paris Climate Accord.

“We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Mr. Biden said when rejoining the deal, which commits the United States to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “This is a global, existential crisis. And we’ll all suffer the consequences if we fail.”

Not everyone agrees with the president and Mr. Kerry’s approach. In recent years, oil and gas producers have strived to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

Jess Szymanski, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, said that while her organization supports efforts to combat climate change, it was important to understand that natural gas and oil are already playing a role in lowering carbon emissions. 

“Over the last decade, the United States has reduced our [greenhouse gas] emissions to generational lows, largely thanks to the transition from coal to natural gas for generating electricity,” she said. 

“Our industry supports the ambitions of the Paris agreement and is committed to providing affordable, reliable energy while furthering our significant progress in reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions,” she added.

Szymanski also stressed that the International Energy Agency agreed that natural gas and oil will still be nearly half of the energy mix by 2040 even with the Paris Climate Accord in effect. 

Some allies of the energy industry also have questioned the commitment of advocates such as Mr. Kerry, who was recently castigated for relying on private jets when traveling overseas to accept awards for his climate activism.

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