Election’s Dynamics Point to Policies That Sustain U.S. Energy Leadership
Posted December 3, 2020
Post-election analysis says that the U.S. electorate is mostly moderate and expects moderate, sensible policy positions – an important point as Team Biden assembles and a new Congress prepares to convene. There’s this from veteran Democratic pollster Mark Penn in the Wall Street Journal:
The nation is largely moderate, practical and driven by common sense over ideology. … The message from the voters is that we are not divided into two extreme camps. Rather, they are more centrist in nature and outlook, and that a president who governs too far to the right or left is likely to be left behind in the next election.
And Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis:
If Biden wants to keep his winning streak alive, he will keep running the same winning play that got him this far: He will run right down the middle.
On energy, right down the middle, practical and common sense is best for the country’s energy security, economy and environmental protection. This acknowledges the primary role the U.S. energy revolution – made possible by safe, modern hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies – has played in fundamentally changing the trajectory for U.S. security, global energy leadership, economic growth and emissions reduction. Moderate, forward-looking policy will not:
- Ban fracking, the technology most responsible for making the U.S. the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer.
- Halt new federal natural gas and oil leasing and development, onshore and offshore – which accounted for 22% of total U.S. oil production in 2019 and 12% of total U.S. natural gas production.
- Block key pipeline projects that would help deliver affordable, reliable energy to more parts of the country.
- Roll back work to improve key regulatory features, including the Nationwide Permit 12 program and the National Environmental Policy Act – improvements that would support important infrastructure while continuing to provide sensible oversight and necessary safeguards.
On the environment, a fracking ban and ending new federal leasing would be major setbacks for the domestic production of natural gas – the increased use of which has reduced U.S. power-sector carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest levels in a generation. Natural gas is and must continue to be a significant part of U.S. power generation – further reducing CO2 emissions and partnering with intermittent energy sources, both key to U.S. climate progress.
Americans certainly get the importance of natural gas and oil production here at home. Pre-election polling of voters in key battleground and other states showed Americans want affordable and reliable energy, and they see natural gas and oil as integral in America’s energy future. These and other outcomes that Americans value result from supporting and growing U.S. natural gas and oil production, not by handcuffing it.
Ask U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania Democrat, who in an interview with the New York Times said that campaign trail rhetoric about banning fracking was part of why he almost wasn’t returned to Congress a few weeks ago:
“I’m giving you an honest account of what I’m hearing from my own constituents, which is that they are extremely frustrated by the message of defunding the police and banning fracking. And I, as a Democrat, am just as frustrated. Because those things aren’t just unpopular, they’re completely unrealistic, and they aren’t going to happen.”
Ask U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat, who told the Houston Chronicle a federal leasing ban would devastate the Gulf Coast economy:
“We are in the middle of an economy that’s hurting. Natural gas production and oil production are very important for jobs.”
Ask Americans who recognize that the benefits of natural gas and oil ripple across economies, beyond the industry itself. A Wall Street Journal article featured Elizabeth Lazo, a South Texan whose family owns mattress and clothing stores and is an example of Americans whose jobs and economic opportunity are supported by the spending of industry and its workers. Anti-industry attacks during the campaign alarmed Lazo. The Journal reported:
“For our community, all the good work is in the oil lines,” Mrs. Lazo, who doesn’t speak English, said in Spanish. “There are no factories here. No work. The biggest thing is Walmart.” Workers who travel to oil fields around the state make $30 to $40 an hour, high pay in a county where the average per capita annual income is just over $14,000.
We’ll see how things develop. While election winners typically claim broad governing mandates, the underlying dynamics of the 2020 vote caution against radical policy shifts. Energy shows this.
Over the past decade or so, the United States has moved from a position of energy dependence and weakness to one of increasing self-sufficiency and decreasing reliance on imports of foreign oil. Bloomberg reports that in October, crude imports from Saudi Arabia fell to their lowest levels since 1985. Domestic energy production has been the game-changer in this fundamental strengthening of America’s energy security and world leadership.
Now is not the time to call a general retreat by hamstringing U.S. natural gas and oil, the leading energy sources for our economy and the world’s – now and in the future. The International Energy Agency projects that in 2040, natural gas and oil will provide nearly half of the world’s energy, more than double any other single energy source.
Again, a majority of Americans have signaled they recognize these points and would be unhappy with policy approaches that jeopardize this important energy progress. API President and CEO Mike Sommers, in a recent blog post:
As new lawmakers arrive in Washington, it’s worth underscoring that the majority of U.S. voters – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – recognize the value of energy security and support policies that would maintain our self-sufficiency.
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.