Landrieu: Politics Not Aligned with Energy Reality

A significant disconnect between political rhetoric and the practical realities of energy production is posing an insidious hurdle for the future of power, former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) has warned.

Speaking candidly to POWER during CERAweek by S&P Global in Houston on March 21, the influential three-term Democrat (1997–2015) who chaired the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee highlighted the urgency of reconciling political actions with factual demands of energy systems as the energy transition rapidly unfolds.

“The politics is not aligned with reality. Democrats do not understand math. Republicans don’t understand science,” Landrieu told POWER. “It’s causing a big problem,” she added, underscoring a fundamental misalignment that threatens to undermine both energy reliability and environmental objectives.

Landrieu noted the U.S. power grid is facing an unprecedented transformation, which presents an “exciting, exceptional, but challenging time,” she said. At its core, the grid faces two giant challenges: “One is exponential growth, and the other is necessary adaption to a cleaner, lower emission system,” she said. “We have not had those things before,” she noted.

While the transition poses a historic juncture with new opportunities, executing it smoothly will require adequately assessing and resolving challenges. As crucially, it will require an inclusive approach: “We need all-of-the-above power sources. Period. Exclamation mark,” she said.

Landrieu, who was committed to bipartisanship as an acting Senator, has since leaving the Senate served on the boards of several companies, but her work to cultivate informed energy policy continues. Now a senior policy advisor at law firm Van Ness Feldman, Landrieu is also championing Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future.

The coalition comprises major natural gas energy and infrastructure players, including energy companies and equipment vendors, and pipeline, contractor, and engineering unions.The organization describes its membership as “interested stakeholders that recognize the vital role natural gas and its infrastructure must play in the energy mix.”

While a key coalition objective is to champion the role of natural gas as a “workhorse and backbone” of the transition, the coalition is also crucially partnering with “clean power” trade organizations like the American Clean Power Association (ACP), which advocates for renewables technologies like wind, solar, and energy storage.

“One of the reasons Natural Allies was formed is to try to educate members of Congress and leaders all over the country about the role of natural gas to meet global climate goals,” Landrieu said. “We’re cleaner than coal, and there are cleaner power sources, wind and solar—we acknowledge that. But we also acknowledge—and they are starting to acknowledge—we need them as much as they need us,” she said.

Natural Allies has been working with ACP for a year now with a shared goal to enable “cleaner, very reliable, and very affordable” power, she noted. The two entities are also aligned on thwarting partisan influence on policy. The quote “Democrats don’t understand math and Republicans don’t understand science” is inspired by ACP CEO Jason Grumet, Landrieu noted.

Partisan initiatives have evolved into tone-deaf policy that threatens the viability of gas power and gas supply, Landrieu suggested. The Biden administration in January announced it would pause review of pending export applications for liquefied natural gas (LNG) while it updated its economic and environmental analysis. Natural Allies in a letter to the President Biden underscored the importance of exports for national interest. “Mr. President, our 100-year supply of natural gas is an asset, not a liability, in our fight against climate change and necessary to fulfill your often repeated promise of creating and restoring manufacturing jobs across our country,” its leaders wrote.

Industry voiced similar concerns when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) requirements covering natural gas power plants in its final Section 111 rule, which will be finalized this April. As POWER reported, the EPA dropped requirements covering existing natural gas plants from the rule, though it will now work on a comprehensive approach that will affect the entire fleet of natural gas turbines.

While federal agencies typically attach studies and white papers to their regulatory reasoning, policy implementation can be propelled or thwarted by lawmakers. But when it comes to the grid, lawmakers should be well versed in the nuanced ways change could affect the power system’s ultimate mission to provide reliable and affordable power, Landrieu suggested.

“I’m a Democrat, and so I feel like I can criticize my own party and the other party,” she said. “If some of these Democratic leaders around the country don’t wake up to the fact—it’s not a political position, it’s a fact of physics, math, and engineering. If they do not wake up … their power is going to go out and they’re going to get blamed,” she said.

“My message to Democratic governors is focus on your engineers, your math, your physics and stop putting political bumper stickers on the back of your car and keep this power grid up and running.”

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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