The geopolitical crisis in Ukraine has made the need to achieve energy independence all the more important.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the fragility of our global energy markets and the need to maintain U.S. energy independence. Although Russian crude makes up only about 3% of America’s energy imports, the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war have nonetheless contributed to higher prices at the pumps.
In early March, the national average gas price broke a 14-year record set in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and became the most expensive in U.S. history, according to data from transportation analytics firm AAA. Gas prices are only expected to keep rising.
In a speech from the White House on March 8 on “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion” of Ukraine, President Biden announced a ban on all imports of Russian oil and reiterated his commitment to achieving energy independence so “tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as weapons against other nations.”
One way the Biden administration can fulfill this promise and protect consumers from the impact of geopolitical shocks is by supporting domestic energy producers who have demonstrated their commitment to delivering safe, responsible, and ethical energy.
A leading pillar in the private sector is Marathon Oil, the Houston-based natural gas and crude oil exploration and production (E&P) company with roots dating back to the 19th century. In January the American energy giant published its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) update, where it not only detailed the scope of its successful fossil fuel operations but also spotlighted new ways in which the company aims to reduce its carbon footprint and invest in local communities in the near future.
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The bold and innovative initiatives, called Meeting Global Energy Demand With ESG Excellence, range from tackling malaria in Equatorial Guinea to meeting greenhouse gas (GHG) and methane emission targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Central to Marathon’s operations is meeting the world’s energy needs with sustainability at the forefront.
In 2021, the company achieved its environmental objective of reducing GHG emissions by 30%, paving the way for a 40% GHG reduction goal in 2022. Marathon also improved its total gas capture to 98.8% in 2021, up from 97% in 2020. The energy firm introduced a gas capture target of 99% for the near term, which it preemptively met during the third and fourth quarters of 2021, according to its ESG report.
Not only did Marathon substantially improve its environmental performance over the year, but the company also introduced bold new quantitative targets for the near, medium, and long-term in 2022. Among those is a GHG reduction goal of 50% by 2025 and 70% by the end of the decade. The company also outlined new methane intensity reduction targets of 60% by 2025 and 80% by 2030 and signed on to the World Bank Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative, which aims to end the harmful practice of gas flaring, common during oil production, by the end of the decade.
As part of the company’s efforts to continually excel on the environmental front, Marathon also employs a host of various emission reduction and carbon sequestration technologies in the four oil-rich basins in the U.S., including Eagle Ford, Bakken, STACK/SCOOP, and Permian. The company is mitigating emissions through techniques that include drones with infrared imaging to detect methane leaks and aerial flyovers. The use of advanced AI solutions is complemented by more standard reduction techniques like high-impact carbon credit programs that absorb carbon from the atmosphere and help restore soil health to optimal levels.
In addition to delivering on key environmental metrics, the U.S. oil giant is also deeply invested in the local communities where it operates. Marathon’s commitment to building up its local workforce is demonstrated by its longstanding support for public works programs like the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIME) in Equatorial Guinea (EG), where Marathon operates its international segment. BIME is a public-private partnership between Marathon and other oil sector partners in collaboration with the government of Equatorial Guinea to eradicate malaria from Bioko Island, as well as from mainland EG. Since 2004, Marathon and other oil producers have contributed nearly $150 million to combating malaria in the country.
The malaria-control measures have made a difference. According to BIMEP’s website, mortality rates for children under the age of five have been slashed by 63% from Bioko island since the program’s inception. Additionally, there has been a 97% drop in the rate of malaria transmission on the island since 2004.
The public health program expanded in 2013 to include the development of a potential malaria vaccine. Over $50 million has been invested since then by Marathon and other BIMEP partners to fund this ambitious quality-of-life initiative and run critical trials of promising malaria-candidate vaccines.
“The ongoing pursuit of environmental, social, and governance excellence is foundational to our framework for success,” Marathon Chairman, President, and CEO Lee Tillman said in the ESG report. “We are committed to putting safety first, serving as a trusted partner to our local communities, and maintaining best-in-class corporate governance standards. We know how important it is to deliver reliable and affordable energy to the world while prioritizing all facets of ESG.”
The crisis in Ukraine has made it clear that we cannot separate fossil fuel production from issues of national security. As American energy consumption patterns return to pre-pandemic levels, the need to increase domestic energy production to keep up with renewed demand has become even more important. To reduce costs on consumers, while increasing energy security, the government would do well to lessen regulations for domestic production and allow private sector leaders like Marathon to thrive.
Nathalie Voit is a freelance content creator and a graduate of the University of Florida. She is an alumni of The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.