Posted May 2, 2016
Interesting discussion at the Atlantic Council last week on an array of opportunities in front of the United States provided by the domestic energy revolution – specifically, benefits to consumers, the environment and to U.S. trade from abundant, clean-burning natural gas, all of which depend on infrastructure support to go forward.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes shipped this year from Cheniere’s new Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana give evidence of surging natural gas production and a global market for U.S. LNG. These exports help support domestic output, they help increase U.S. energy security and they provide supply options for friends abroad. Paula Gant, the U.S. Energy Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary, Office of International Affairs:
“Before even the first of the seven cargoes left Sabine Pass the potential availability of U.S. LNG was already having a disruptive influence on the balance of power between producers and consumers. We expect that disruptive influence to continue, and that is good for our energy security and that of our trading partners and allies globally.”
Even so, this wonderful domestic energy abundance and the global LNG market opportunities could be impacted by challenges facing infrastructure expansion here at home. America needs more energy infrastructure to move domestic supply to all areas of the country, for residential consumers, power generators and manufacturers. Yet, without stronger high-level backing, we could see these infrastructure needs delayed or rejected, as occurred last month with the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline in New York.
Americans overwhelmingly support more energy infrastructure, and there appears to be bipartisan consensus for it in Congress. But infrastructure projects are being targeted by a vocal minority – even though increased domestic use of natural gas is the leading reason the United States is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions. A key going forward is gaining infrastructure support from the White House and the administration, said Marty Durbin, API’s executive director for market development. Durbin:
“I think the White House and the administration have got to play a stronger role in the messaging here. We’re not looking for them to be cheerleaders for the industry or any particular pipeline project. But as we’ve heard from the Department of State, we’ve heard from DOE … they can very easily point to all the benefits we have from natural gas playing a larger role, not only from the exports side (but) from an economic standpoint, the geopolitics, reducing emissions. But if we don’t have the infrastructure here in the U.S. to be able to feed all of that, that’s really going to restrain our ability to do that.”
Durbin said starting at the top, elected officials must play a strategic role to help counter misinformation about the regulation of and safety of energy infrastructure projects:
“This is one of those areas I think that the government, the administration, needs to be able to speak more clearly. … Yes, the states have a role, locals have a role as well. But I do think there’s got to be a stronger voice here saying, these statements out there that say (natural gas) can’t be produced safely – there’s no way of producing it safely – all pipelines are bad, we’re locking ourselves into something for generations to come (are incorrect). … There are more voices – elected officials at all levels, the customers who are going to benefit from this, consumer groups, you name it, that can attest to the fact that all of this type of infrastructure is going to bring great benefits.”
Gant said the administration supports infrastructure:
“I can say that the administration does very keenly understand the importance that infrastructure plays. … [I]t’s very clear that the key reason we’ve been able to take this abundant supply and turn it into economic value is because of our pervasive infrastructure. Technology and innovation delivered the resource to us, but our pervasive infrastructure has allowed us to get it where we need it, to heat our homes and businesses, to run industry and to turn it into other products in our petrochemicals sector and to deliver it to facilities like Sabine Pass.”
So, there’s the conversation. The country’s infrastructure needs are clear – and so are the benefits, to consumers, businesses, the climate and America’s allies around the world. Needed is pro-infrastructure leadership from policymakers at all levels. It begins with the White House, whose bully pulpit should be used to support strengthened and expanded energy infrastructure – so the United States can more completely harness the benefits generated by its energy revolution.
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.