Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, a prominent military veteran and outspoken environmental activist, on Tuesday called on the state’s oil and gas industry to invest in greater refinery capacity and slow down overseas shipments of liquefied natural gas to handle an energy crunch at home.
Higher prices for oil and natural gas have been rippling through global economies this year, impacting residential electricity costs, food prices and more.
Oil prices soared past $130 per barrel in March, and natural gas prices have more than doubled since 2021. The prices skyrocketed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which set off an avalanche of economic sanctions that suppressed global fossil fuel supplies. It also led to financial windfalls for some oil and gas companies, according to The Associated Press.
Honoré said gas prices have swelled by 33% this year as oil rose past $120 a barrel, compared to 13% in 2014 when oil was trading for a similar price.
He accused oil and gas companies of prioritizing profits over consumers and called for long-term “solutions for pollution” to transition the state away from fossil fuels.
“Until that happens, we are at the mercy of Big Oil and Gas,” he said. “Right now, they’re focused on high profits, profits to shareholders. They’ve said that is their mission.”
Honoré, a 37-year military veteran who oversaw Hurricane Katrina security and relief efforts, leads the GreenARMY, a grassroots organization that aims to curb climate change and pollution. He held a news conference Tuesday near a Shell gas station on South Acadian Thruway, a stone’s throw from St. Joseph’s Academy. The event was organized by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, another environmental advocacy organization.
Honoré called on Congress and the Louisiana Legislature to hold oil and gas companies accountable for higher energy prices.
“We understand your obligation to your stockholders. But if the economy crashed, what good will the stockholders be when people can’t buy gas because they’ve lost their jobs or they can’t buy food?” Honoré said.
Honoré also called for the industry to boost refinery capacity. That mimics a talking point President Joe Biden used earlier this year when calling on U.S. gasoline producers to lower their prices.
He noted Louisiana has lost a pair of refineries in the last two years.
“It’s not so much a shortage of oil, it’s a shortage of refinery capacity,” he said.
Honoré also took aim at liquefied natural gas, or LNG, an industry that has been booming in Louisiana since 2016 when the U.S. began exporting natural gas abroad at a rapid rate. Biden has made LNG exports a priority as Europe battles with Russia over natural gas supplies.
Honoré said shipping LNG overseas drives up natural gas prices at home “because we’re competing with the world now” for supply. He noted higher natural gas prices can elevate utility bills in Louisiana because it is the state’s primary driver of electricity generation.
“We did not create the Russian war, but it is having an impact on the availability of natural gas,” Honoré said.
Tommy Faucheux, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, countered that oil prices are set by the global market, not companies.
“To accuse companies of taking advantage of consumers is just unnecessary because it’s not true,” he said.
He also said refineries are doing their part to maximize their production. The American Petroleum Institute has estimated that U.S. refineries are at about 95% capacity this year.
Faucheux added that oil and gas companies aren’t building new refineries because of global pressures to transition away from carbon-heavy fossil fuels.
“For anyone at this point to be asking for new refineries or new refinery capacity at a time when we’re trying to lower carbon emissions just makes me scratch my head,” he said.
Faucheux said shipping LNG is a necessity borne out of national security needs. He said the overseas exports benefit the economy of Louisiana, which has an abundant supply of natural gas.
“To make the argument that we shouldn’t be shipping overseas and that’s it’s negatively impacting Americans here at home just doesn’t make sense,” Faucheux said. “The world, the United States is better off for the shipment of LNG to Europe in particular.”
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