The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Rhetoric vs. Action

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 21, 2015

In a State of the Union address that mostly skimmed over energy issues – remarkable, given the generational opportunities stemming from America’s ongoing energy revolution – President Obama still underscored the yawning disconnect between his all-of-the-above energy rhetoric and his administration’s failure to put that rhetoric into action.

Talking about the need for infrastructure investment, the president said:

“Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan ... infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come. Let’s do it. Let’s get it done.”

We agree. America’s infrastructure needs are greater than a single oil pipeline – the political football known as the Keystone XL – which the president has been punting around for more than six years.

But there’s no good reason, no good excuse, for not making the Keystone XL pipeline Job No. 1 in a procession of infrastructure projects. President Obama hasn’t offered any beyond calling “temporary” the 42,100 jobs the U.S. State Department has said Keystone XL would support. Yet, those jobs are no more temporary than the ones that would be supported by building bridges, roads and other projects the president routinely cites.

That’s the disconnect between what President Obama peddles in speeches to Congress and around the country – and what his administration is doing. You can’t beat the drum for infrastructure investment while blocking it. For more than six years the Obama administration has blocked a shovel-ready project worth about $5.4 billion in private investment, which the State Department says would add approximately $3.4 billion to U.S. GDP.

The president’s performance – or the lack of it – on Keystone XL has impacts. API President and CEO Jack Gerard addressed some of these in a speech at the U.S. Energy Association’s 11th Annual State of the Energy Industry Forum:

“… if we can’t make a decision on a single pipeline, how can we expect to ever convince the market we can accomplish comprehensive infrastructure improvement? Indecision has consequences. The fact is that if all other infrastructure projects are held to the same standard as Keystone XL, we are years away from approving or improving anything.”

Gerard said the Obama administration’s handling of Keystone XL is a strike against American workers and a deterrent to the investment the president says he wants:

“The needlessly protracted fight over the Keystone XL pipeline only serves to deprive tens of thousands of hardworking Americans of well-paying jobs and our nation of a safe and efficient means of transporting much needed North American energy resources. Furthermore it has a chilling effect on infrastructure investment, generally, reminding all that government’s indecision must be a part of a risk calculus when deciding whether to invest in infrastructure. Deciding to improve our nation’s electrical grid, roads, pipelines and rail freight lines, particularly those built by the private sector, should not be reduced to a partisan talking point.”

Gerard noted an IHS study that found essential infrastructure improvements in just the oil and natural gas sector could spur as much as $1.15 trillion in new private capital investment over the next 10 years, while supporting 1.15 million new jobs and adding $120 billion on average per year to GDP. Gerard:

“This level of infrastructure investment eclipses the pending highway bill, and taken together they could mean thousands of well-paying jobs and improve our nation’s economic competiveness. So, we agree with the president on the talking points. However, we strongly disagree with the administration’s actions.”

Beyond Keystone XL, we’re talking about declining energy development on federal lands – at a time when energy activity is booming on private and state lands. It includes an ideologically driven environmental agenda that could undercut the energy revolution. Gerard:

These “aren’t just prime examples of getting our nation’s energy policy exactly wrong; they stand in stark contradiction to the president’s professed all-of-the above national energy strategy.”

As the new Congress gets into full gear, there’s a dynamic energy agenda to be pursued – and it can begin by holding President Obama to his own “all-of-the-above” rhetoric and his continued call for infrastructure investment. Gerard:

“… the president has an historic opportunity to foster this unique American moment and to help set our nation on a course for enduring energy abundance and global energy leadership. Together, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show the world how energy abundance can be used as a positive force rather than as a tool to harm or to control other nations as some still use their energy abundance. What we want and what the American people deserve are elected leaders at all levels of government who act with a sense of urgency and spirit of collaboration to convert this unique American energy moment into an enduring legacy of American energy abundance so that future generations will only know the United States as a global energy leader.”

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. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. 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 live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.