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00:00:00 Jordan Yates
This episode of The Energy Pipeline is sponsored by Caterpillar Oil& Gas. Since the 1930s, Caterpillar's manufactured engines for drilling, production, well service, and gas compression. With more than 2, 100 dealer locations worldwide, Caterpillar offers customers a dedicated support team to assist with their premier power solutions.
00:00:25 Speaker 2
The Energy Pipeline is your lifeline to all things oil and gas, to drill down deep into the issues impacting our industry. From the frack site to the future of sustainability, hear more about industry issues, tools, and resources to streamline and modernize the future of oil and gas. Welcome to The Energy Pipeline.
00:00:49 Jordan Yates
Hello everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Energy Pipeline. I'm your host, Jordan Yates, and today I'm joined by my co- host Wayne, who is also in relation to our guest, David Holt, which is the president of the Consumer Energy Alliance. Wayne is also a part of the CEA. He is a member of the board of directors there. So these two go way back, which I think is going to make for a great episode. If you guys are listening in podcast version right now, you're going to not be able to tell, but they are both smirking a little bit. So get prepared. This is going to be a fun episode. I just want to kick it off by you guys saying hello. Say hello to the listeners.
00:01:37 David Holt
00:01:37 Wayne Zemke
Well, hello everyone. It's great to be back as co- host of my first session with an invited outside speaker. So we'll say welcome to David Holt.
00:01:46 David Holt
Hey guys. David Holt here. Wayne, Jordan, good to be with you guys.
00:01:50 Jordan Yates
We are so happy to have you. I'm just going to get right into it and ask you a little bit about your background. What is CEA? What is the Consumer Energy Alliance? What does that mean?
00:02:03 David Holt
Yeah, thanks. So Consumer Energy Alliance, we're a 17- year- old organization, hard to believe at this point. But it's really founded on the premise that energy impacts the entire US economy. How do we create this kind of horizontal trade association that welcomes everyone that uses energy in all forms? So manufacturers, the farming community, the transportation community, distribution, plastics, hospitals, restaurants, individual families. We've grown into kind of a consumer advocacy organization that represents 550,000 individuals around the country and almost 400 kind of corporate entities around the country, the vast majority of whom don't produce one molecule of energy. So they're using energy. These groups are coming together to say, " Okay, how can we set public policy at the federal level in Washington, DC, at the state level, and even now increasingly at the local level that ensures that everyone has the ability to have affordable energy, gasoline and electricity, reliable energy." That's a big issue, increasingly big issue. We had federal announcements earlier before the summer that said as much as two thirds of the country could be at risk for brownouts and blackouts. So affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy. That's the big third tenet of our philosophy and our approach and what our members are looking for. How do we continue to push the envelope on making things better, faster, stronger, cleaner, but ensuring we have reliable and affordable energy? That's our mission and increasingly active, obviously in Washington, DC. But we have active campaigns, 12 campaigns covering 22 states now, from oil and gas, to wind and solar, to carbon capture, to pipeline and infrastructure, to hydrogen, to fuel cell technology, to renewable natural gas, to electricity and power gen, and transmission. So all those things are covered by our organization on a daily basis.
00:04:14 Jordan Yates
Being the president of all of that sounds incredibly stressful. You cover a lot. That is insane. I didn't realize the reach of it. Wayne, can you tell me a little bit about from your perspective, what it means to be a part of the CEA and your involvement there?
00:04:32 Wayne Zemke
Yeah. Being that I work for Caterpillar in the service sector of the upstream oil and gas industry, I tend to come at it from that wedge. Very often the oil and gas industry has struggled historically to communicate with consumers because our approach tends to be very factual, very scientific, very data- driven, very engineering focused. I think the balance that we get with our participation with the CEA is to reach those consumers in a way that they understand it, that they relate, and that they can understand that what we do at Caterpillar fits into this bigger energy landscape, and we're part of that. The CEA looks at us as a large consumer because our customers consume a lot of fuel in the machines that they operate. They look at us as a consumer of natural gas because we power a lot of the equipment that moves natural gas in the pipeline infrastructure. We have a large electric power footprint with onsite generation and power generation. So we bring this voice, this unique perspective, as both a participant in the upstream oil and gas service sector economy, and then as a large energy consumer. CEA helps us find that balance and lets us help reach people on their terms to understand how what we do needs to fit into the overall energy mix.
00:05:56 David Holt
00:05:56 Jordan Yates
Yeah, it sounds like a very natural fit to have you a part of that and Caterpillar, and it just seems like there's a lot of synergy there. Something that has sparked the idea for this episode has been the talk of IRA implications and how that is affecting things being electrified and what it means for us in the energy sector. David, can you give us a little bit of insight on what the IRA is and how it's affected you guys at CEA?
00:06:31 David Holt
Yeah. Well, it's the Inflation Reduction Act, and it was an act of Congress that was signed by the president late last year, late in 2022 that really, more than the Inflation Reduction Act, it really is an energy bill. All aspects of the energy economy were impacted. A lot of incentives were given out by Washington, creating a pathway toward increased utilization of wind and solar. It created a pathway to create a market and an economic mechanism to kind of price carbon. So carbon capture, carbon sequestration is now a business. I'm here in Houston, and it's a booming business here in Houston and around the country. It created a pathway toward more transmission, particularly as it relates to renewable energy. Every aspect of our burgeoning, developing, growing energy economy was impacted. One of the things that's a concern for us and should be a concern for all of us is oil and natural gas with this administration is kind of seen as a forgotten entity, when it's the vast majority of the energy that we rely on a daily basis. If you look at it, about 84% of all our energy comes from oil and natural gas, and that's down from about 85% 10 years ago. So as we continue to grow wind and solar and renewables, oil and natural gas are still our lifeblood, and we need to recognize that and we need to make sure that we are creating the proper pathway to allowing oil and gas to continue to be that dominant part of our energy mixture, while we diversify, while we ensure we have energy security and all the other things. But again, it goes back to that affordable, reliable energy part of it. And while we support strongly wind and solar, if you don't have backup power and the wind isn't blowing or the sun's not shining, then you're not providing electricity. In a hot summer day, we'll be annoyed; but in a very, very cold winter environment, if you don't have power, people get injured. You need to make sure we have that power and that power mixture. That's an ongoing part of the discussion; the IRA didn't really talk about that. But all the other forms of energy now are full speed ahead.
00:09:00 Wayne Zemke
So David, how does the current infrastructure of the oil and gas industry either support or hinder the adoption of these electrification type of technologies?
00:09:12 David Holt
It's a great question. It's kind of complimentary, if you will. There's a few things, and CEA did a study that's available on our website, Consumerenergy. org, that looked at the unintended consequences of EV mandates, which really you can extend to electrification. As we add more molecules to the grid, we're not replacing energy; we're just moving where that energy is burned or created to a different place. So whether it's going to be a natural gas power plant that is providing electrification or that's going to be a renewable power plant from wind or solar that has a backup power with nuclear or natural gas, you're still going to need power generation. Something is burning, something is moving to create the electricity. So what does that mean to the grid? First question, as we grow our reliance on the grid with electrification, with more electrified products like your stove top or your hot water heater or your dryer or things that rely on natural gas in your home, or your gas powered vehicle, your internal combustion engine that is now going to be converted or moved to an electric vehicle, while more and more of us are relying on the grid with data centers, with our devices, with our computers and everything else, we're seeing more and more demand now than we've ever seen before. But in the next 10 years, as this electrification notion becomes more and more prominent, there are a lot of concerns about grid management. There are a lot of concerns about whether or not all these renewable projects that are in the planning stages are actually going to be built and finished. A lot of concerns, are we going to bring the transmission from those renewable projects from where the wind is blowing and the sun is shining to the cities? A lot of opposition to transmission. A lot of concerns about with EVs, do we have the refueling stations? Are we creating the infrastructure that's necessary for public acceptance? A lot of concern about critical minerals from cobalt to lithium and all in between that all goes into wind and solar and EVs and our smartphones and all the rest. Where's that coming from? Right now, the dominant resource for all those critical minerals is China. A lot of folks are worried that the US energy policy is really kind of a Chinese dominant energy policy in the next few years. We've got to look at all these as we put more and more pressure on our electricity infrastructure. Our concern, and we've done several reports on this, that many policy leaders in, say, New York and California and a couple other states are making this mad rush to electrification on the auspices of cleaning our environment, but they are risking the grid, they're risking affordable energy, they're risking reliable energy and brownouts and blackouts. And on balance, they're not providing the environmental benefit that they are claiming. So we need to really look at this and be sensitive to those three pillars of affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy as we move to electrification. On balance, all that said, some electrification, energy diversity, all that is a good thing, and we should continue to examine it and consider it and move in that direction. But like everything else in life, you have to be balanced and thoughtful about the approach.
00:13:05 Wayne Zemke
So David, you talked about charging stations, and I think that one's evident. You've alluded a couple of times to grid infrastructure. Can you illuminate on the grid more? And do you see other significant areas of infrastructure that need to be upgraded or need to be modified from what really the current path is?
00:13:24 David Holt
All of it. I mean, the simple answer is everything needs to be upgraded. We have a molecule problem bringing the molecules from where the energy's created to our homes and offices and buildings. That's going to be an increasing problem as we go forward. All the independent service operators that examine kind of from a quasi- governmental standpoint examine the electricity grid in the Northeast or the Midwest or the Southeast or here in Texas at ERCOT are all kind of saying the same thing. These grids are becoming increasingly under pressure. Texas, I think, has already had seven all time record demand days this summer. So we've broken the record six times, seven times already this summer. We've had a very hot summer here so far in Texas, and that's obviously putting a lot of strain on the grid here in Texas. We're seeing that around the country. What we're seeing more and more reliance on our electricity, our power, we want to be comfortable homes, we want to make sure that our buildings are sufficiently powered. Then again, we're all using our own individual devices. And we have all these Bitcoin centers that are a huge, huge draw on our power grid. Some of the concerns now are if we're going to meet the renewable energy standards with wind and solar that we have set for the nation, we're going to have to quadruple, quadruple the amount of transmission that we already have in this country. What does that mean from a right of way standpoint? What does that mean from an imminent domain standpoint? Are consumers largely across the Midwest going to accept that amount of transmission moving across their backyard in some cases? We're already seeing in Indiana and Iowa and Minnesota and Michigan and some other states a little bit of pushback. So it's a little bit of a" not in my backyard" with renewables as well. We have to ensure that we have the wherewithal and the consumer acceptance that's going to allow these grid improvements and this infrastructure to be put in place. And then from a pipeline perspective, we all know there's been a lot of opposition to natural gas pipelines for a number of years. We need more natural gas pipelines. Natural gas and oil will be a dominant part of our energy mix for a long time coming, so we need to make sure we're building those out Carbon, carbon capture carbon pipelines, CO2 pipelines are going to be increasingly a part of our energy mix. We've got to get those built. Hydrogen pipelines, which is a utilization for natural gas, and an ultra clean low emission meeting our net zero challenges through hydrogen is another infrastructure component that was also recognized in the Inflation Reduction Act. All those things go into it, and then you have terminals and you have other substations, and you have all the rest that have to be added. In our modern day and age of everyone having the ability to say no to everything, we're really putting ourselves in a situation where we're going to have a large section of the country that's going to have to say yes to a lot of things. All of us are going to have to say yes to a lot of things and make sure that we meet these energy challenges. Because the downside is we just don't want a blackout in the dead of winter in the northeast states or in Texas like we had in 2021 when many of us were without power for 48 hours living in 20 degree temperatures in our homes. The folks here that live in Texas can't handle that at all.
00:17:15 Jordan Yates
It was not fun.
00:17:16 David Holt
There's a lot that has to go into it.
00:17:18 Jordan Yates
That was a very bleak week of trying to stay warm. I realized that having one fireplace just doesn't solve it all. And if you don't have one at all, then you're definitely out of luck. But I do like how you mentioned the gap between where the lawmakers are pushing for these regulations, but then there's kind of the missing aspect of, " Okay, how are we physically going to change the grid in all these different components?" You told me beforehand you have a background in law, and I'm curious, this wasn't a prepared question, but just something I thought of. Is there a group of more technical people that are helping these lawmakers be like, " Yeah, this can work," or, " No, it can't"? Is there somebody actually keeping them in check when they make these laws? Do you know about the sort of checks and balances of that side of it?
00:18:15 David Holt
Not enough. A lot of our policy with energy is being led by a narrative, and a lot of it is the climate change narrative. We're in this existential threat, and if we don't make fundamental changes and some say absolutely ban fossil fuels, oil and natural gas, in the next five years, it's going to be doom and gloom. Some of our political leaders are pushing their energy policies based on that notion. I disagree with that notion, the haste that it needs to occur. So there are a lot of government officials, there are a lot of experts in this, there are a lot of folks that are appointed to positions that are in positions of authority. And then there's the broad set of the energy industry and other groups like Consumer Energy Alliance that are helping to lead an approach that makes sense, that allows for a stair stepped process to diversify our energy mix, that allows for a process to continue to make oil and natural gas cleaner so that we can meet our goals of better emissions. And it's not just carbon dioxide; it's volatile organic compounds, it's nitrogen oxides, it's sulfur dioxides. It's all the things that create smog in our cities and asthma and those that are at risk. All those things need to be part of our effort to clean up our environment. And the United States, frankly, is doing the best job in the world already. There needs to be more. Jordan, it's a great question because we've seen in New York and New Jersey, just to pick on two states, this rush to appease a part of our political world with the notion that we've got to make these changes in the next five years to an all electric grid, to banning natural gas hookups in homes and businesses, to all EVs in the next 5, 7, 10 years, when one, that's not necessary. It's not an accurate perspective. Two, our fear is this rush is actually going to put pressure on the electric grid, as I mentioned, and on EVs. So if you have an all EV mandate and no internal combustion engines anymore, but you don't have EV charging stations and you don't have the grid that provides sufficient supply to meet our EV requirements, consumers are going to say no to EVs. So we need to make sure that we're not setting ourselves up for kind of a rejection of a new market that is being created kind of somewhat arbitrarily by elected officials without full understanding of what's going into it. So there's a lot of conversation around it. It's a great question. Some elected officials say, " Well, I'm going to vote for this because I won't be in office in five years when the chickens come home to roost." We've actually had that said to us by a few elected officials. It's really about us as voters to making sure both the Republican and the Democratic candidate for whatever office they're going to run for understand that we as voters want to ensure that we have affordable and reliable energy while we continue to meet our environmental challenges, and that we strongly support oil and natural gas while we support wind and solar and nuclear and hydrogen and the overall energy mix. It's kind of taking back that political narrative and providing enough pressure on Republicans and Democrats alike to do the right thing with an overall all- energy mix. Because these politicians in some states really need to get the message, and so far haven't.
00:22:15 Jordan Yates
I love that you look at it as a total energy picture, rather than it's oil and gas versus electricity. You're like, " They all go together, and we can do really well with all of them if we look at it as a cohesive picture rather than them versus us or oil versus electricity." Because like, where do you think electricity comes from? But I mean, sure, there's ways to do it with solar, there's ways to do it with wind, and then there's also, you know, you could do it with gas. But I think there's this weird thing happening, and especially me, I'm in my early 20s and of course TikTok, Instagram reels, all that's very big. There's this huge amount of guilt that they put on people who support oil and gas. It's like this social shaming of, " If you don't support all electrification, you're a bad person." And like you said, it starts to affect the elected officials and the decisions they make, because they want to get votes off of these arbitrary ideas. It's like they think, you hear the term perception is reality. So if we just all say, " Oil and gas bad, electric is good," then the oil and gas will go away. But that's not realistic. It can't just go away. We can't just fully go electrically. It's not an immediate solution. I like how you were able to address that it needs to be taken in steps or else it's just not going to work, and then it's all going to fail and they're going to reject every option. I think we just need to slow down a little. It's okay. The world is not going to end from pollution tomorrow or in five years. Well, I guess I can't say for sure. What do I know? But my assumption is that it won't. Wayne, what do you think about all this?
00:23:59 Wayne Zemke
Well, I think I'm aligned with the narrative here, which is I think a positive reaction to this kind of short- term thinking, the short- term discussion that we need to do something to fix this now. And David, maybe you can comment a bit and build on these thoughts, but energy transition and energy expansion has been going on since the start, right?
00:24:22 David Holt
00:24:22 Wayne Zemke
We've been on a rather natural progression towards electrification anyway. We certainly see it, and I know Jordan will get into this in other podcasts. We certainly see it with our customers that are interested in moving off of a liquid molecule onto a natural gas molecule. They're interested in electrification. So I do think there's room here for collaboration with industry, with regulatory partners, with legislators to understand that there's this short- term narrative that says we have to do something, but industry's already on this path and is already moving in this direction. So where are those opportunities, David, for collaboration or for technology to really fit into the discussion?
00:25:03 David Holt
And technology is the key, right? Innovation and technology and good old know- how, and having science allow us to meet some of our challenges. I think when you look at those companies like a Shell or an Exxon or a Chevron that have always been treated as oil and gas companies, they're now energy companies. Exxon just bought a large lithium plant outside of Dallas for battery storage, and they're looking at that. Exxon is all in on carbon capture. Shell is all in on wind and solar and looking at ways to meet our energy mix from a variety of fashions. Several years ago they were talking about how they were going to transition away from oil and natural gas. Now they're kind of coming back with their new CEO saying, " Hey, hold on a minute. We're now looking at the overall world energy mix, and we're going to need to continue to develop oil and natural gas to meet our basic needs." Good, honest statement. But all these companies are diversifying. All of them understand not only what the benefits of diversified energy means, but their customers want it. The average American, the average person around the globe that's living at a subsistence level of economic life is looking at ways to diversify our energy portfolio and add different energy mixes to the table. But you also have about 2 billion people on this planet that are making about 50 cents a day that are trying to get up to that subsistence level of living. Many of those people are burning dung and wood on a daily basis rather than oil, natural gas, wind, or solar to meet their power needs. So we need to make sure that we're looking at ways. This is a global issue. It's not a US issue, it's a global issue. When we're talking about wind and solar and electrification, we also have to remember, I mentioned, the critical minerals. Just take cobalt for example. So 99% of the world's cobalt is controlled by China. The largest cobalt mine in the world right now is in the Congo, a Chinese controlled mine, and it's dominated by child labor to develop the cobalt that's used around the world. When you talk about environmental or humanitarian disasters, something that all of us in the world need to be looking at, and Americans, American political leaders, and others need to be taking a hard look at, " Are we perpetuating this humanitarian crisis by increasing our reliance on energy resources that must have cobalt?" Right? We have to recognize that there are trade- offs in everything. So the back to the innovation, ingenuity, technology, there are some technologies that folks are looking at for renewables and battery power and others that don't rely on cobalt; as just one example, carbon capture. Carbon capture's not new, it's been around since the early 1970s. So it's basically just reinjecting CO2 back into the ground in very secure geological formations that can keep that carbon there forever. And eventually that carbon solidifies again, and maybe we use it for something else like golf clubs or we just leave it in the ground. But now that's there. That technology exists. We're capturing it from point source emitters like the steel industry or the fertilizer industry or others that want to have their carbon captured and injected. And we're looking at hydrogen in various forms, which is not necessarily a new technology, but we're looking at new technological and innovative ways that we can convert natural gas into hydrogen to have ultra low emission energy resources that can be used to power the grid, or for vehicles, or for other energy resources. So there's a lot going on there, Wayne. Again, it's all integrated in my mind. There are those companies, smaller companies that are just going to be focused on oil and gas, smaller companies that are just going to be in wind and solar. But there's a lot of integration in all of this. And I don't know of a company in the United States in the energy field that's not looking at ways to do things safer and cleaner and meeting our environmental challenges. It's really a notion that's shared broadly among the energy industry, and that's really a positive.
00:29:54 Jordan Yates
That sounds very promising and optimistic, and I like it. Because I think when we look at it all together and all the different energy types that you just mentioned that we are working on improving, that it makes me feel very hopeful because it doesn't feel so much like oil versus electricity and things like that. It feels more like we are just improving. It feels more like we're scientists trying to make the world a better place. I think that's exciting that there's so many options and so many avenues because it gives us the flexibility to figure out what works best. Wayne, I know we're getting to the end of our time, so is there any last questions that you have for David before we have to let him go?
00:30:39 Wayne Zemke
Well, I think as we wrap this up, we started talking about the Inflation Reduction Act, which as David said is really an energy bill. Do you see it as something that brings more carrots or more sticks? It feels like business tends to respond better when there are incentives than when there's regulatory pressure. I think the IRA brings a bit of both. So maybe just your closing thoughts on that and how industry can think about taking advantage of some of the incentives that are there while fitting into maybe an enhanced regulatory environment at the same time.
00:31:14 David Holt
That's a good question, Wayne. I think the act itself was all about the carrots. We've seen out of Washington just a lot of money flying around the country, which is causing inflationary pressure and all the other kind of economic issues we're dealing with from a broader perspective. But the act itself was a lot of, " Hey, here's money, let's get it spent. How to create tax incentives and other incentives for various parts of the energy industry to really get rolling." And then they had for the stick side more ambiguous regulatory to be determined by the various agencies, and that's still to be determined. A lot of those are going through the process and the experts at EPA that are looking at how do we regulate carbon capture? What's the federal authority there? What's the state rule? I mean, all the states are now looking at is there a new tax regime for injecting that carbon back? What's in it for the states? What's in it for the local communities? That's an indirect result of the Inflation Reduction Act, right? So the stick part of it, to my understanding, is still kind of a TBD, but the carrot in literally trillions of dollars in direct investment or tax subsidies and incentives has kind of already occurred. If you watch the Department of Energy, you watch the Department of Interior, EPA, others, the amount of grants and other government offerings that are occurring, I've never seen anything like that before. So there's a lot of things to prop up various parts of the energy industry and get things moving. But again, that's going to run us into consumer acceptance of transmission lines, grid construction, wholesale large wind farms, large multi multi acre solar farms, what that does to the environment. You're already seeing some farmers and farming communities kind of push back on the amount of wind turbines and solar arrays. So we've got to balance all that again, and make sure we're kind of doing it slowly and methodically and meeting both consumer acceptance, affordable energy, reliable energy, and meeting our environmental challenges as well.
00:33:38 Jordan Yates
That is a lot to take in and just prep for. I feel stressed right now like I need to go solve the world's issues. Guys, I hope listening you also feel that way so we can all get it done together.
00:33:53 David Holt
Well Jordan, you said you're early 20s, so you're the target audience.
00:33:57 Jordan Yates
Exactly. Yeah, I know. I just got to go listen to myself talk. I'm going to go back and listen to this episode because sometimes when I'm recording obviously I'm listening while you talk, but then I forget a lot because sometimes my heart's beating really fast while I record. And then I go back and listen to the guests we have on like you, and I'm like, " Gosh, this is so good. They said so many good things." So I'm excited that a whole bunch of other people, hopefully my age, and anyone else who needs to hear this will get to get the message. I want to end with our new segment called the Drill Down. The Drill Down is where we just kind of take everything we just talked about and in about a sentence or two summarize it up, last remaining thoughts, last point you want to make. David, what do you have to say to the Drill Down?
00:34:43 David Holt
I would say this is a fascinating, absolute fascinating time to be an energy observer. The grid, how we get our electricity is going to fundamentally change in the next 10 years. Energy diversity is going to fundamentally change and expand in the next 10 years. So watching this, even as a casual observer, is really going to be interesting. We're going to go through a lot of machinations. It's not going to be pretty in some cases, but it's going to be fascinating to watch.
00:35:13 Jordan Yates
Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on and spending time out of your busy day. Wayne, thank you so much for co- hosting this episode. Wayne, anything else? You want to sign off, say goodbye to everybody, how much you'll miss them till the next time you're on?
00:35:28 Wayne Zemke
Well, I'm going to see David next week. The Consumer Energy Alliance has board meetings. Still no snappy sign off for me, Jordan. Thanks for having me back, and I look forward to the next one.
00:35:38 Jordan Yates
Of course. Guys, as always, I'm your host, Jordan Yates. Thank you for listening to The Energy Pipeline. We'll see you next time.
00:35:47 Speaker 2
Come back next week for another episode of The Energy Pipeline, a production of the Oil and Gas Global Network. To learn more, go to OGGN. com.