Posted May 18, 2016
The average American household has saved almost $750 in annual energy costs compared to 2008, according to recent data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Greater availability of domestic oil and natural gas, made possible by hydraulic fracturing, has helped drive down prices for gasoline, electricity and home heating.
Keeping affordable, reliable energy moving to families and businesses requires infrastructure -- pipelines, storage, processing, rail and maritime resources. Candidates often make infrastructure development a centerpiece of their economic plans, promising to create jobs and modernize the U.S. transportation system by improving roads, bridges, rail networks and airports. Energy infrastructure should be on that list. Shovel-ready projects abound in the energy sector.
Updating America’s energy infrastructure could generate up to $1.15 trillion in new private capital investment, support 1.1 million new jobs and add $120 billion on average per year to our nation’s GDP over the next decade, according to a study by IHS.
New infrastructure opportunities are a byproduct of the American energy revolution. Once, our infrastructure was designed to transport energy imports inland from the coasts. With production growth in areas like North Dakota and Pennsylvania, expanding our pipeline system will generate construction jobs and ensure we move energy efficiently, maximizing the economic benefits of our status as the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas.
Access to affordable energy gives U.S. manufacturers a competitive edge, putting downward pressure on power and materials costs for producers of steel, chemicals, refined fuels, plastics, fertilizers and numerous other products. According to a recent study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), U.S. industrial electricity costs are now 30-50 percent lower than those of our foreign competitors. BCG also found that American manufacturing costs are 10 to 20 percent lower than those in Europe and could be 2 to 3 percent lower than China’s by 2018.
By expanding energy infrastructure, we can expand those benefits. Infrastructure constraints, on the other hand, can be costly. Despite being a day’s drive away from Pennsylvania’s ample natural gas supplies, New Englanders pay up to 53 percent more than the national average for electricity, according to the EIA. Several proposed pipeline projects could help – and create jobs. According to a report from the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, failure to invest in natural gas and electricity infrastructure could bring higher energy costs that will undermine the competitiveness of area businesses, costing the region 52,000 private sector jobs between 2016 and 2020.
Pipelines have an excellent safety record and are instrumental in our nation’s success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions from power generation reached their lowest levels since 1993 last year, and greater use of natural gas is a primary factor.
Eighty percent of American voters support increased development of our national energy infrastructure. To create jobs, continue progress in reducing emissions and ensure America’s homes and manufacturers have access to affordable energy, energy infrastructure should be a top priority.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jack N. Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. He also has served as the president and CEO of trade associations representing the chemical and mining industries. Jack understands how Washington works. He spent several years working in the U.S. Senate and House, and co-founded a Washington-based government relations consulting firm. A native of Idaho, Jack also is very active in the Boy Scouts of America, a university graduate program on politics, and his church’s leadership. He and his wife are the proud parents of eight children, including twin boys adopted from Guatemala.