Ryan’s new job brings controversy

Former Congressman Tim Ryan’s new job as a member of the two-person leadership council of Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future, an organizations that promotes natural gas as clean energy, raised eyebrows from some environmentalists and fellow Democrats.

Dave Scott, a former Sierra Club president, tweeted in response to the decision: “Tim Ryan has done a lot of good things for working Ohioans. This is a sellout of Americans’ future. Read the science. There’s no feasible path to the cuts we need that includes investment in new gas. Gas means carbon and a lot of it.”

Others expressed their disappointment with Ryan’s decision saying they supported him in his failed U.S. Senate campaign against Republican J.D. Vance, and after the defeat Ryan is showing his true colors.

But Ryan, a former 20-year U.S. House member from Howland who represented most of Mahoning and Trumbull counties during that time, has been a proponent of natural gas, so the decision shouldn’t be a surprise.

During the Senate campaign, Ryan’s support of natural gas was questioned by Republicans.

That’s because when he briefly ran for president, Ryan told The Washington Post regarding fracking that the federal government needed “to significantly ramp up our oversight of the industry and its practices, especially in regard to its use and disposal of water as well as methane leaks. If the industry cannot rapidly innovate on these issues, I believe the federal government would need to step in and halt fracking operations.”

Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future, Ryan’s new employer, was created in 2020 by major natural gas companies including TC Energy, which was behind the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as Duke Energy and the Williams Companies.

The Energy and Policy Institute, a renewable energy organization, described Natural Allies as a “front group” that “promotes fossil gas to support emission reductions and reliability.”

Natural Allies is focused on convincing Democrats that natural gas is clean and / or green energy.

Efforts such as that have come under criticism by environmental groups and several Democrats, including in Ohio.

Renewables such as solar and wind are typically considered green energy. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that consists primarily of methane; extraction and consumption of it contributes to climate change.

Gov. Mike DeWine last month signed into law legislation redefining natural gas as green energy. The bill also expanded drilling of oil and gas in state parks. Most Republicans in the state Legislature supported the bill; all Democrats opposed it.

Meanwhile, Washington, California and New York — all Democratic states — have taken steps to phase out natural gas, according to The Washington Post, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering federal regulations on new gas stoves.

Convincing Democrats about the benefits of natural gas and that it’s clean energy is where Ryan comes in.

In a prepared statement, Ryan said the U.S. “can no longer sit on the sidelines while countries like Russia seek to weaponize energy, coerce and threaten our allies and jeopardize global security. American natural gas is the answer to that threat. Today it is helping to stabilize our allies and maintain freedom across the globe.”

Ryan replaced ex-U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, who left Natural Allies’ two-person leadership council to become director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Ryan joins ex-U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, on that council. While Ryan’s salary wasn’t released, it likely pays pretty well. Also, it’s impressive that a former House member landed the gig after the first two hires were ex-U.S. senators.

What Heitkamp and Landrieu have done since their appointments in January 2022 is largely unknown except Natural Allies is able to use their names to promote natural gas.

Articles in support of natural gas with the bylines of the two former senators have appeared in a few places including Politico and Newsweek.

In the Politico article, they wrote: “We cannot and will not solve the climate crisis with renewable sources alone — natural gas must also be part of the solution. Natural gas is accelerating America’s and the world’s transition to a clean-energy future, not jeopardizing it.”

A Natural Allies official told me: “Practically speaking, we cannot achieve a clean energy future without natural gas in the mix.”


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