The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

100 Days: Infrastructure Should Keep Pace With U.S. Energy Needs

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 3, 2017

In the early going the Trump administration has signaled support for energy infrastructure by hastening approvals for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and by ordering expedited environmental reviews and approvals for high-priority infrastructure, including energy projects. As the president’s executive order said last week, promoting clean and safe development of U.S. energy is in the national interest – and advancing infrastructure is critically important to ensuring that Americans receive the full benefits from that energy. U.S. voters agree, 81 percent supporting increased infrastructure development in an election night survey.

While Keystone XL and Dakota Access have high profiles, America’s infrastructure needs also include other pipelines to transport crude oil to refineries, natural gas transmission pipelines – especially into the Northeast – and other supporting facilities. Making sure that projects are reviewed and permitted fairly and efficiently is absolutely key to infrastructure progress, so it’s significant the administration has made this a top priority.

History indicates the private sector will invest in needed projects. Between 2010 and 2013 capital spending on energy infrastructure increased 60 percent, according to a 2013 study. The same study found that updating U.S. energy infrastructure could generate more than $1 trillion in private investment, support 1.1 million new jobs and add $120 billion per year to the national economy by 2025.

Increased infrastructure investment means demand for steel, machinery, engineering services and more, spurring an estimated $45 billion per year of economic activity throughout the supply chain. In this way big projects, such as pipelines, bring multiple benefits – delivering energy where it’s needed and growing the economy.

U.S. consumer demand is driving the need for new and updated infrastructure – pipelines, railroads, highways, waterways and ports. There’s also been a big change in America’s energy picture. Originally, infrastructure was set up to move oil and natural gas from the coasts, where it was delivered by ship, to the refining centers and populations inland. Today, there’s a need to transport oil and gas from inland producing areas.

Pipelines are a modern, safe and efficient way to deliver energy. In 2014, 500,000 miles of liquid and natural gas transmission pipelines transported 16.2 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products and 27.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas throughout the U.S. at a safety rate of more than 99.99 percent. This is largely due to significant investments in pipeline safety and maintenance activities:

pipeline_safety

Failing to meet America’s need for more infrastructure has negative impacts. Infrastructure bottlenecks in the Northeast have contributed to the fact that New England consumers – residents, businesses and industries – pay among the highest prices for electricity among the Lower 48 states:

NE_all_sectors_electricity

To sustain our nation’s positive energy trajectory and position as a global energy leader, the new administration and Congress should follow up the president’s executive orders by working with the private sector to put policy into action that will enable the expansion of the nation’s energy infrastructure.

The “100 Days” series of posts.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.