President Biden stopped in Colorado last week, giving him an opportunity to talk about climate change in an effort to sell his infrastructure bill to the public.
"We are blinking code red as a nation," Biden said, as he talked about hurricane Ida and a fire he saw when his plane flew through California. But there was no mention of how we are blinking code red as a planet when it comes to poverty. Energy poverty, to be more specific.
Roughly 1 billion, or 15 percent of the world’s population, live highly energized, wealthy, modern lifestyles recognizable to Coloradans. More than twice that many people — one third of the global population — cook their daily meals burning wood and dung and have either no electricity or only modest, intermittent access to electricity. I can think of no starker illustration of the immense inequality in today’s world. This cannot stand.
Liberty's mission is to tackle the whole energy problem: energy access for those currently living far more dangerous and constrained lives coupled with energy innovation and evolution to tackle the long-term climate challenge. In fact, trying to tackle climate change without confronting the challenges of energy poverty not only has no prospect of succeeding, it is immoral as well.
On the climate front, surging U.S. natural gas production and plunging natural gas prices have been the largest factors driving down U.S. per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to their lowest levels in decades. Lower global natural gas prices and rising exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) are displacing coal with cleaner electricity sources like natural gas, solar and wind. Global energy consumption continues to rise rapidly, but global coal consumption stopped rising a decade ago, thanks to U.S. natural gas exports.
Our ESG report puts Liberty's efforts and the entire oil and natural gas industry in proper context. In our report, we address energy poverty, maintaining reliable, affordable, and clean energy, and climate change. We are proud of the work that Liberty and Colorado's oil and natural gas industry have done to tackle climate change, but we must not ignore the costs.
Investments in combating climate change can be done constructively, but all too often we overlook the consequences of driving up energy costs and driving down energy reliability. These costs are borne disproportionately by lower income folks, who require modern energy to access clean-cooking fuels, easy access to drinking water, sanitation, education, etc.
At Liberty, we agree with President Biden that emission reduction is important. Our financial investments in technology back up our climate achievements. But as the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, we have the ability to tackle more than one issue at a time. These interwoven challenges require a thoughtful, sober look at the data and tradeoffs. Overheated political rhetoric simply won’t get us there.
For well-off people, the cost of energy is not as important, because they've always got reliable energy. The people who are not politically powerful, or even visible in a politician's eyes, are getting crushed. The United Kingdom, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, has de-industrialized its country by driving up energy prices and impoverished the bottom half of the population. Yet they continue along the path of exporting the energy-intensive jobs of moderate and low-income citizens, while importing the emissions. We must not follow that failed model. Unless our country becomes a premier manufacturing venue, which includes the total costs of labor, regulation, and energy — we will not reap the full economic benefit of clean energy technology, or anything else.
For those who have passionately taken on the global challenge of climate change, please don’t forget the broader cause of improving the lives of the billions of people living on our planet who don't have the energy to power their lives, stripping them of the emotional energy to chase their dreams. Take a minute to think about that.
Now back to American infrastructure, which President Biden clearly wants to advance. An enormous framework needs to be built to achieve the lofty environmental goals that politicians spout out on campaign trails. We can’t even come close to achieving our goals without clean-burning, affordable, and reliable natural gas produced responsibly by your neighbors in Colorado.
We have the natural resources to save the planet. While we're at it, let's save the people who live on the planet too.
Chris Wright is the chairman and CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services. He lives in Englewood.