Infrastructure: Catalyst for Progress, More Equitable Access to Energy
Posted September 25, 2020
A call for environmental justice (EJ) is featured in U.S. House climate legislation being debated in Congress. While the EJ section of House Democrats’ climate plan focuses on environmental goals, one part calls for an energy justice and democracy program at the U.S. Energy Department to reduce energy poverty and to ensure communities have equitable access to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Building or expanding America’s natural gas pipeline network is key to reducing energy poverty in the U.S. – seeing that Americans, no matter where they live, can get affordable natural gas for home heating, cooking and other uses. Thanks to abundant, affordable natural gas, U.S. power sector emissions of carbon dioxide are at their lowest levels in a generation. Increasing infrastructure capacity, increasing natural gas use, supports this beneficial trend.
Unfortunately, this kind of energy fairness isn’t a reality everywhere in the U.S. Some Americans have no choice but to use wood-burning fireplaces or stoves to heat their homes, due to the lack of safe, reliable pipelines and other infrastructure to get energy where consumers want and need it.
What’s clear is the United States has the pipeline technology, investment capability and skilled workforce to build infrastructure to more completely distribute homegrown energy. The question is whether we, as a nation, have the political will to get these projects done.
In recent months, things have regressed. Along the East Coast and across the industrial Midwest, due to courtroom battles, burdensome regulations and miles of red tape, we have seen several major pipeline projects blocked or delayed, and there’s little reason to believe opponents won’t keep using similar tactics in the future. They’ve got help in Congress, where some want to make it even harder for projects to get the permits they need to be built.
To the contrary, they brag about using the legal system to run out the clock on projects. After Dominion Energy gave up trying to build the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline after years of legal skirmishing, Doug Wellman, president of Friends of Nelson County (Va.), messaged members of his group that playing stall ball was the plan all along. “While our team was bedeviling Dominion’s team with beautifully crafted lawsuits, the world was changing in our favor.”
The hubris in Wellman’s statement is misplaced. Americans have long said they want affordable, reliable energy, and they recognize that natural gas and oil will be an important part of the country’s energy mix for decades to come. Recent polling of voters in key battleground and other states found that strong majorities support creating access to domestic energy, recognize the value of natural gas and oil personally and, agree that natural gas and oil are important to the growth of renewable energy. Anne Bradbury of the American Exploration and Production Council, in a piece for The Hill newspaper:
There is an inextricable link between a healthy and robust economy and a reliable and affordable energy source. Real, lasting climate solutions are driven by innovation and technological breakthroughs that enhance our way of life and reduce emissions.
Even so, things could get tougher for proposed projects. Unfortunately, an array of activists see blocking pipelines as a proxy for their opposition to the natural gas and oil abundance that in recent years has significantly strengthened our security and lifted our economy.
The question for Americans is relatively simple: Can we build a consensus to build pipelines and other infrastructure – safely and after reasonable regulatory review and public input? This is the solution to America’s energy equity dilemma.
Energy affordability paves the way for energy fairness, equal opportunity and doing what’s right for as many Americans as possible – with infrastructure as the catalyst for progress.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.