While EU countries (quite rightly) excoriate Donald Trump for pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris agreement, their principled position on policy hasn’t stopped hasn’t stopped them from scrambling for their share of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, Energy Secretary Rick Perry claimed earlier this month.
The comment received scant attention when Perry first appeared onstage at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference and announced approval of a massive new LNG terminal in Texas, owned by ExxonMobil and the government of Qatar, among others.
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“We’re out in the public and they’re giving all these speeches about the Paris accord and all the things we’re going to do, and we get into private meetings, it’s like, ‘How do we get that LNG?’,” Perry said. “Don’t get up on the front end and make all these speeches about how good you’re doing, when the fact of the matter is you’re not.”
As part of a longer post on the politics behind Trump’s announcement, ProPublica reporter Andrew Revkin noted that “expanded gas exports to Europe were also a goal of the Obama administration, both for economic and strategic reasons. President Obama had also urged fracking-averse Europe to do its own energy development, as well. Hillary Clinton, too, took heat from environmentalists during her campaign for her longstanding support of natural gas drilling, and natural gas exports.”
Though the EU has indeed been helping to lead the global response to the U.S. withdrawal, LNG exports are not the only area where a gap is emerging between broad objectives and specific action. Writing on The Energy Collective, Jan Rosenow and Richard Cowart of the Regulatory Assistance Project warn that the European Council is about to reverse the continent’s past progress on energy efficiency, leading to higher energy bills, reduced job opportunities, and declines in health, comfort, air quality, and public housing.
“Saving energy saves money, improves security, lowers emissions, and makes it easier to meet renewable energy and climate goals,” they note on The Energy Collective. “That’s why energy efficiency is the sensible foundation for the Energy Union and the 2030 Clean Energy Package now under review: deeper savings make the rest of the goals so much easier to achieve.”
But that’s not the way the decision seems to be going.
In its Clean Energy Package last November, the European Commission proposed a 30% energy efficiency target for 2030, just 6% higher than the 24% the region is already on track to achieve by that year. The European Parliament called for a 40% target in June, leading to hopes for a compromise somewhere between the two figures.
Instead, “several Member States are pushing for even weaker targets,” with Rosenow and Cowart pointing to significant new loopholes baked into the current European Council proposal: double-counting of building energy efficiency savings, and of longer-term energy savings, allowing 15% of onsite renewables generation to be classed as efficiency improvements, and counting “excess savings” from the 2014-2020 period against targets for 2021-2030.
“If accepted, these proposals will reduce the current ambition levels by more than 80% and perhaps as much as 100%, depending on the amount of excess savings and how Member States apply these proposed terms,” the two authors warn.
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