Pub. 2 2020-2021 Issue 2


President’s Message: Rikki Hrenko-Browning

One thing I think about frequently that has come into sharp focus recently is the disconnect between living our daily lives and actually understanding what makes our daily lives possible. This isn’t even necessarily a criticism but an unusual side effect of modern living. I authored an op-ed in the Deseret News recently that started thusly:

Last week the Biden Administration announced a series of Executive Orders aimed at tackling climate change. One of the more ambitious goals of the order is the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035 and from across the economy by 2050. It’s going to sound paradoxical to say this, but the United States cannot do this (or even come close) without the oil and natural gas sector.

I realize I have a credibility problem with that statement considering I’m President of the Utah Petroleum Association, but I’m also a mom and a Utahn who cares deeply about the health, happiness, and prosperity of our state and our country. I want to leave this world better for my kids, and I also recognize that renewable energy will play a key role in achieving that.

Much of the dialogue surrounding energy development, climate change, and the road map path to achieving the future that I suspect we all want is adversarial in tone, pitting factions of true believers on either side against one another. It doesn’t have to be this way. Energy development, no matter if we’re talking about oil and gas, coal, renewables, or nuclear, is extremely complex. There are paradoxes, contradictions, and what appears at first to be self-evident truths that, upon further investigation, give way to even deeper complexity and intractable problematic data that precludes simple answers.

I write this in part because of the credibility problem I, as the mouthpiece for a vital Utah industry, and you as the members of that industry, face when we attempt to engage in a sometimes hostile public marketplace of ideas. Everyone has an agenda in terms of public policy. Our self-interest is obvious and upfront. But just because our self-interest is perhaps more obvious than others who engage in this space doesn’t mean what we say is any less true.

Later in the piece for the Deseret News, I quote Mr. Rhone Resch, who at the time was head of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). In 2013, he said, “Natural gas and renewables complement each other very nicely … I think it can happen: In the next 30 years, we’re going to have 50% renewables and 50% natural gas.” As head of the SEIA, Mr. Resch’s self-interest was also obvious in that his job was to advocate for getting as much solar energy to market as possible. His aspirational goal was to achieve 50% renewables by 2040 or so. President Biden has espoused a goal of total elimination of greenhouse gases by 2050. The stated goals do not align with reality.

This feels like an important point, yet nuance of this type always seems to fall through the cracks for not being loud enough or splashy enough. The reduction of greenhouse gases are not a condemnation of a robust, successful oil and gas industry. See what we’ve done on Tier 3 fuels here in Salt Lake City for proof positive of innovation, cooperation, and creativity in addressing a complex issue.

Likewise, full speed ahead on wind and solar power will not provide us 100% of the power we need to continue to live the lives we’re accustomed to. Oil and natural gas are not the enemies of wind and solar development. Natural gas is commonly bundled with large-scale wind and solar projects, which improves those projects’ affordability and reliability. The net effect is an increase in wind and solar installation, but also an assurance that makes our daily lives possible.

As 2021 continues in earnest, I have made it a priority to attempt to bridge the gap of understanding between how we live and what we know about how we live. This means working with our elected leaders, economic development organizations, the media, and everyday citizens to fill in the picture more completely in terms of how our industry positively impacts Utahns all across the state and how those impacts contribute to a more prosperous and conscientious Union. Although overcoming the shrillness of the debate can sometimes feel daunting, I remain emboldened by the opportunity to persevere and cautiously optimistic that we can evolve and enhance our society’s understanding of what we do, why it matters, and how it contributes positively to the future.

In the following pages, you will see not only a snapshot of the some of the work we’ve done but opportunities for you to contribute to these critical efforts, as well. Thank you for your continued support.