Why Energy Infrastructure Is an Opportunity for Bipartisanship
Posted February 25, 2021
The natural gas and oil industry shares the ambition of President Biden and Congress to accelerate economic recovery for all Americans. As policymakers consider the nation’s energy security and opportunities for future job creation, it is important not to overlook our critical energy infrastructure.
That reality came into stark focus last week, when winter storms and surging energy demand caused power outages across Texas and other parts of the U.S. Millions of residents were without electricity, water and heat amid frigid temperatures. The treacherous conditions served as a reminder that an all-of-the-above approach to energy along with durable infrastructure are essential to powering life in America without interruption.
When it comes to heating homes, fueling cars or simply keeping the lights on, America’s extensive pipeline network ensures widespread access to affordable, reliable fuels. But we cannot stop there.
Beyond making energy readily available to more Americans, additional infrastructure development would generate revenue to support regional governments and local businesses. Unfortunately, the conversations around pipeline expansion often ignore the induced impacts of these projects, which sustain other industries in small communities and contribute to the nation’s long-term energy security.
American workers know the value of energy-related construction and pipeline development, which provides better employment opportunities than the “green-collar” sector, according to recent studies. Last week at the White House, representatives from America’s largest labor unions urged President Biden to boost federal investment in energy infrastructure, linking the importance of this build-out to the nation’s broader recovery.
Here are four reasons why:
- Job Creation: Energy-related construction creates good-paying jobs for engineers, scientists and skilled laborers across the U.S. The recently-canceled Keystone XL pipeline employed more than 1,000 union workers, which is why America’s largest labor unions vigorously support the project.
- Economic Prosperity: Energy production and infrastructure development boosts the associated industries and service sectors in resource-rich regions and along pipeline routes. Local leaders and residents in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska have expressed concerns about impending jobs losses and economic uncertainty.
- Intra-Continental Trade: Pipeline projects are essential to North American trade, transporting crude oil from our top trading partner Canada to U.S. refiners in the Midwest and along the Gulf Coast. These connections serve economic interests on both sides of the border and strengthen the region’s energy security.
- Environmental Progress: Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally friendly way to deliver energy for everyday use. Critical infrastructure projects, including the recently canceled Keystone XL, undergo extensive environmental reviews, and their completion will facilitate America’s sustainable energy future.
Rebuilding the nation’s economy will require homegrown energy – and the more than 10 million workers supported by the natural gas and oil industry stand ready to deliver.
But the infrastructure must be in place to make production worthwhile and transport energy resources where they are needed. Along with highways, railroads, ports, waterways and export terminals, energy pipelines complete America’s broader infrastructure network and benefit consumers across the country.
By investing in natural gas and oil infrastructure now, lawmakers can strengthen the economy today, while preparing for the America’s ever-increasing energy demands of the future.
About The Author
Lem Smith is API’s vice president for Federal Relations. Lem joined API in February 2020 as vice president for Upstream Policy & Industry Operations. He previously served as a principal at Squire Patton Boggs, an international law and public-policy firm, where he advised private and public sector clients on federal and multi-state policy matters and provided counsel on communications strategies, campaign affairs and crises management. Previously, Lem was director, U.S. Government & Regulatory Affairs at Encana, and responsible for all aspects of U.S. government relations and regulatory policy matters at the state and federal levels. Prior to that, Lem was director of Government Relations for Kerr-McGee Corporation. Lem began his career on Capitol Hill, working for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker (Mississippi) and the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood (Georgia), where he negotiated key member priorities within the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPAct). Lem is a graduate of the University of Mississippi.
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