Posted February 14, 2015
Some time ago the Keystone XL pipeline debate stopped being a discussion of energy infrastructure and whether the privately financed project was in the national interest. Thank Keystone XL’s opponents, who detached the debate from fact and scientific analysis to better serve their purposes.
Keystone XL’s most ardent foes readily acknowledged as much. They said that for them the pipeline was a symbol to be used in pursuit of political power. As one anti-pipeline activist put it: “The goal is as much about organizing young people around a thing. But you have to have a thing.”
Symbolism over substance, politics over the greater public good? Too often that’s the way it’s played Inside The Beltway. But at some point political power needs to give way to actual power -- for people -- and public policy should be grounded in our energy reality, not symbolism. It should be fact-based and consider the impacts on the daily lives of real people, not narrow ideological agendas. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:
“It is not surprising that those who support this contrarian vision rarely address the real-world impact of their radical worldview of life without fossil fuels, whether it is a continued lower standard of living for the world’s poorest nations or a much smaller and less dynamic U.S. economy.”
A genuine all-of-the-above energy approach rejects the contrarian view. Instead, it pursues a wide variety of energy sources while acknowledging the truth – oil and natural gas are now and will be in the future the primary fuels to power our economy and sustain our modern standard of living. Certainly, some don’t appear to be interested in the modern living part, but most Americans see oil and natural gas development as good for the economy, jobs and individual prosperity.
This position is grounded in reality. Oil and natural gas currently account for 63 percent of our energy use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2040, EIA projects oil and natural gas will account for 61 percent.
There are good reasons for the projection. Oil and natural gas are energy-rich, portable and reliable. Access to this energy empowers – literally and otherwise. Robert Bradley Jr. writes in Forbes:
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, coal, oil, and natural gas have liberated mankind from wretched poverty; fueled millions of high-productivity jobs in nearly every business sector; been a feedstock for medicines that have saved countless lives; and led to the development of fertilizers that have greatly increased crop yields to feed the hungry. Fossil fuels have made heating and cooling, transportation, refrigeration, cooking, and myriad other stables of modern life affordable and dependable. Such remarkable achievements were accomplished by scientists, engineers, chemists, and others who applied the incredible properties of these naturally-occurring resources to humanity’s benefit.
Thanks to surging domestic production, the United States leads the world in natural gas output and is expected to be No. 1 in oil output this year. Right now, the U.S. is in the midst of an energy renaissance largely because of vast, energy reserves in shale and other tight-rock formations that are being developed with safe hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
We have this energy beneath our feet and off our shores. It forms the foundation for an all-of-the-above approach that drives the economy and lifts individual Americans – even as we develop and bring to scale the fuels of the future.
That’s the context for seeking policies that support and grow domestic production – through increased access, common-sense regulation and leasing and permitting policies on federal lands that encourage instead of discourage investment. American energy is good for America and also good for the world.
And the world needs energy, lots of it. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
“Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability. … Widespread energy poverty condemns billions to darkness, to ill health, to missed opportunities. … Children cannot study in the dark. Girls and women cannot learn or be productive when they spend hours a day collecting firewood. Businesses and economies cannot grow without power.”
America’s energy revolution makes it possible for the U.S. to be energy secure here at home while also projecting energy for the good across the globe. Gerard, during last month’s State of American Energy address:
“We have a once-in-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. … Our vision is one that safeguards the progress we’ve made and builds on it. Our vision of the world is one where more and more people have access to reliable, safe and affordable electricity, no matter which continent or hemisphere they call home.”
Completing the loop, Keystone XL is something bigger than a single oil pipeline. It represents the needed infrastructure that will help maintain and strengthen America’s energy superpower status. It represents a larger, fundamental choice before us: Whether we as a nation will make decisions to build energy infrastructure, to increase access to reserves and embrace America’s energy wealth for the benefit of all.
Unfortunately, Keystone XL also represents missed opportunity – the folly of casting aside the national interest for narrow interests. Gerard:
“… 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.”
There’s still opportunity for substance to trump contrarian symbolism with the Keystone XL pipeline. Approve the pipeline, Mr. President. The facts and thorough analysis compel Keystone XL’s construction. #TimeToBuild.
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.