Obama To Koch Bros: I’ll See Your PR Plan & Raise You 86 Gigawatts Of Offshore Wind Energy By 2050

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Mere weeks after the Koch brothers unleashed a major new public relations campaign designed to build support for the oil and gas industries, the Obama Administration pushed back with the release of concrete plans for accelerating development of the nation’s vast offshore wind energy resources. They’re talking 86 gigawatts.

What’s that thing about bringing a knife to a gun fight?


The New Offshore Wind Energy Plan

The Koch brothers have already established a pattern of influencing offshore wind energy policy up and down the Atlantic Coast, but tiny Rhode Island appears to have escaped their attention and the Obama Administration has been pushing forward with a series of offshore wind energy leases.

The new offshore wind energy plan ramps up those efforts. Announced last Friday under the title, “National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States,” the new plan presents a roadmap for achieving the 86 GW goal.

That’s nothing compared to the raw potential involved. According to the new plan, all else being equal the current state of wind energy technology provides the capability for building 2,058 GW of capacity. At an output of 7,200 terrawatt-hours annually, that’s about twice the country’s total electricity generation in 2015.

The plan deals with regulatory and environmental challenges as well as technical ones, calling for the Interior Department to coordinate with the Energy Department.

Do read through the plan for the full details (it’s not all that long). For those of you on the go, one interesting item that pops out is the water-energy nexus. The addition of 86 GW of wind energy is expected to reduce water consumption by the U.S. power sector by an impressive 5%.

Another interesting item is the role that offshore wind energy will play in meeting an anticipated increase in demand. Under the 86 GW scenario, offshore wind energy will meet fully 14% of the demand for new electricity generation in the Great Lakes region as well as the Atlantic states.

Here’s the sum-up from the introduction:

With almost 80% of U.S. electricity demand located in coastal states and total offshore wind energy technical potential equal to about double the nation’s demand for electricity, offshore wind energy has the potential to contribute significantly to a clean, affordable, and secure national energy mix.

End Of The Road For Fossil Fuels, Eventually

To be clear, the new offshore wind energy plan is not going to kill off the US fossil fuel industry by 2050. Coal is already on the path of permanent decline, but just this week there were at least two dramatic, positive developments for the domestic oil and gas industry.

One is the discovery of a significant new oil field in the Permian Basin region of Texas, described here by our friends over at Fuel Fix:

The Houston-based oil exploration company Apache has made a significant discovery in West Texas’s Permian Basin, estimated at 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 3 billion barrels of oil — nearly the equivalent of an entire year of U.S. crude production, the company announced on Wednesday.


Apache also said its oil estimates are for the deep Barnett and Woodford formations alone. It expects there is also “significant” oil potential in the shallower Pennsylvanian, Bone Springs and Wolfcamp formations.

The other news, also noted by Fuel Fix, is news that the first of a fleet of “dragon ships” has begun transporting ethane (a product of the region’s shale gas sector) to petrochemical plants in Europe:

The first of the ships, the Ineos Intrepid, left the Houston Ship Channel on Sept. 1 with its maiden shipment, 265,000 barrels bound for Norway. In large lettering along its hull, the Intrepid touts “Shale gas for progress.”

Ineos also will carry ethane to its facilities in Grangemouth, Scotland.

In the long run, though, the global economy will decarbonize. The pace is slow but it has been gathering steam in the wake of last year’s COP21 Paris climate talks.

If Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wins the Oval Office this fall, the US will continue to accelerate clean power development while ratcheting down fossil fuels.

They won’t disappear entirely, of course, but their contribution to the global energy mix will become more sustainable.

PR Cannot Save Oil And Gas Industry

Whether or not Clinton wins the presidential race, the new Koch-funded fossil fuel campaign faces an uphill battle considering the chain of bad news that the oil and gas industries have been dragging around this year.

Launched last summer under the name “Fueling U.S. Forward,” the new campaign proclaims that “A Diverse Energy Mix Is The Key To Ensuring Americans Continue To Grow, Innovate, And Thrive.”

The group is aiming to pull stories from the grassroots:

…we’re going to take the conversation out of Washington, D.C. and into local communities. We’ll talk to people of diverse backgrounds —industry employees, small business owners, community leaders, and low-income families —and share their stories.

At the end of the day, this story is not just about energy. It’s about moments you make with it.

Fueling U.S. Forward claims that its mission is to broadcast stories that presumably wouldn’t otherwise get much play, but they’re probably going to get more than they bargained for.

To cite just one recent example, the Standing Rock Sioux might want to contribute their stories about protesting the construction of the new Dakota Access oil pipeline, including such details as being attacked with dogs and pepper spray (as of this writing, the Justice Department has stepped in to halt part of the project).

The community of Porter Ranch could chip in with last year’s massive gas leak from a storage facility, which prompted an area-wide evacuation lasting weeks.

And, thousands of Oklahoma residents have stories about the earthquake swarms linked to oil and gas wastewater disposal in their state, culminating in a record-tying temblor just last week.

If you would like to contribute a story about how oil and gas affect life in your community, just send it along to info@fuelingusforward.com.

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Image: via US Department of Energy.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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