Oil and utility companies — which earn the vast majority of their profits from fossil fuel production, generation and sales — have invested billions of dollars in offshore wind ventures highly touted by Democratic leaders opposed to oil and gas development.
Offshore wind projects that are expected to provide nearly 20 gigawatts to millions of Americans along the East Coast and off the California coast are largely dependent on the fossil fuel industry, according to a Fox News Digital review. Democrats, including President Biden and governors across multiple states, have routinely celebrated new wind development while taking measures to restrict fossil fuel investment.
“Offshore oil and gas companies play a key role in the investing in, scaling, and deploying of low carbon solutions, including offshore wind,” National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) President Erik Milito told Fox News Digital.
“Removing or restricting investment opportunities for the offshore oil and gas sector would eliminate a key source of engineering expertise, not to mention R&D funding that can find, scale, and deploy the solutions to many of the technical challenges currently associated with decarbonization efforts,” Milito continued. “The future success of decarbonization efforts depends upon continued revenue generation from companies in the oil and gas sector.”
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NOIA, which is the largest trade group serving the offshore oil, gas and wind industries, has argued that a low carbon energy transition can only occur with the support of the oil and gas industry.
The group actively advocates for new fossil fuel and wind development in U.S. waters. Milito testified during a congressional hearing earlier this month, imploring lawmakers to remove barriers blocking fossil fuel drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and regulatory burdens slowing wind projects.
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“The offshore oil and gas sector, in particular, has the unique ability and opportunity to innovate and to scale technological solutions that lead to a lower carbon future,” Milito told Fox News Digital. “Globally and at home, far too many people still do not have functional access to electricity, and that situation will be compounded as energy demand continues to rise.”
“The energy transition must be achieved in a way that increases the access, affordability, and reliability of energy for everyone.”
The nation’s first operational offshore wind farm, a 30-megawatt project that opened in 2016 and is located a few miles off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, was developed by Deepwater Wind, an offshore wind and transmission company. The company, though, hired Gulf Island Fabrication, a company that specializes in constructing offshore oil and gas platforms.
“Block Island showed that the synergy between offshore oil and gas and wind expedites renewables development,” Milito said.
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In addition, some of the largest offshore wind projects currently in development are owned by companies that have a large fossil fuel business.
For example, Kitty Hawk Wind, a giant 3,500 project off the coast of North Carolina, is being financed by Avangrid, an energy company that provides power to millions of customers in the Northeast. According to the company’s most recent earnings report, just 14% of its revenue comes from its renewable business.
The 2,600-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project slated to be constructed by 2026 off the coast of southeastern Virginia is owned by Dominion Energy. Renewable power represents a small slice of the billion-dollar power company’s business which mainly consists of natural gas sales and fossil fuel-powered electricity sales.
SouthCoast Wind, the 2,400-megawatt project slated for 2028 and located 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is being developed by oil company Shell and Ocean Winds, a joint venture between two European utility companies EDP Group and ENGIE. In 2022, renewables accounted for less than 20% of ENGIE’s revenue and EDP highlighted the importance of its gas business.
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The next-largest project, the 2,100-megawatt Empire Wind development in New York, is owned by BP and Equinor. BP is among the largest oil companies in the world and Equinor is a major petroleum refining and fossil fuel exploration company.
And Atlantic Shores, a New Jersey project projected to produce 1,510 megawatts by 2028, is being developed by Shell and French utility company EDF Group.
“We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said during an event celebrating New York offshore wind development alongside Govs. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., and Phil Murphy, D-N.J., last year. “We must seize this moment – and we must do it together.”
As part of the event, the three leaders celebrated the New York Bight offshore lease sale for wind developers. A month later, in February 2022, the lease sale generated $4.37 billion, the largest offshore energy auction in U.S. history, with some of the largest investments coming from Shell, EDF Group, EDP Group and other utility companies.
However, the three officials have all opposed oil and gas development and heavily criticized fossil fuel companies for racking in large profits in recent years.
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Haaland, who has led efforts to aggressively expand offshore wind over the next decade, announced in July that her agency would consider not offering any offshore oil and gas leases over the next five years. She explained at the time that she and Biden were committed “to transition to a clean energy economy.”
“Big Oil just reported its profits. Record profits. Last year, they made $200 billion in the midst of a global energy crisis,” Biden remarked during his State of the Union address earlier this month. “I think it’s outrageous.”
Meanwhile, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry recently lamented that oil and gas companies have such a large influence on the future of clean energy development in the U.S. His comments came after Shell and BP suggested they would continue focusing mainly on their fossil fuel business.
“They’re critical to the transition,” he told Politico on Feb. 9. “I accept that.”