NYC's Amazon Debacle and the Need for Affordable Energy

NYC's Amazon Debacle and the Need for Affordable Energy
Simon Edelman/U.S. Department of Energy via AP

By now you’ve heard about Amazon canceling its plan to open half of its second headquarters in New York City. You’ve probably also heard why.

Citing a hostile environment to do business, Amazon pointed the finger at a few but vociferous opponents who never wavered in their “never Amazon” mentality regardless of the steps the company took to address questions, ease apprehensions, improve relations and educate the public. They criticized “us day in and day out,” one executive remarked.

It was, to paraphrase, a dead end. 

What you haven’t heard, perhaps, is how this an all-too-common problem for the American energy sector too.

Like the yanked-out Amazon deal — which eliminated 25,000 would-be jobs, more than $10 billion in incremental tax revenue and billions more in regional economic activity — the energy sector from coast to coast has seen various production and infrastructure proposals hindered, delayed or cancelled by one-sided and ill-informed extremists who put narrow, extremist politics before country and their cash-strapped, hard-working constituents.

The U.S.  Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute recently reported that delays in energy infrastructure projects and bans in natural gas development have blocked more than $91.9 billion in economic activity countrywide and eliminated nearly 730,000 job opportunities. Federal, state and local governments have also missed out on more than $20 billion in projected tax revenue, which helps support a myriad of municipal services we all rely on including public safety, education and roads and bridges.

For energy, these missed opportunities have come courtesy of the “Keep It in the Ground” movement, which shares rhetoric with many within the anti-Amazon crusade. Both are engineered by a small but vocal group of extremists who twist facts. In energy’s case, they falsely pit the development of natural resources against the collective desire for a cleaner environment – when, in truth, we can have both. In fact, it’s already happening. In 2017, for instance, the U.S. reduced its carbon emissions by 0.5 percent, the most of all major countries, and greenhouse gas emissions are down 2.7 percent since 2016.

State-of-the-art technologies, protections for workers and an incredible, if unreported, environmental record are big reasons for this about-turn. Each have allowed the U.S. to develop energy in safe ways that are second to none globally, and countless industry and government analyses have backed this, including Democratic and Republican administrations on the local, state and federal levels.

No matter.

Look at the months-long, violent protests that unfolded in North Dakota around the Dakota Access Pipeline. See the delay tactics used against pipeline buildout, maintenance or replacement proposals in Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, to name a few, plus New York, North Carolina, Michigan and Minnesota. Pipelines remain, statistically, the go-to safest methods for transporting energy, 4.5 times safe than the alternatives. They’re also badly-needed economic stimulators for communities and create jobs.

Yet protesters continue to risk their lives by sitting atop trees and turning off essential utilities, jeopardizing nearby communities and throwing away hard-to-find taxpayer dollars via unnecessary emergency response. Various energy equipment has been set on fire. Police officers and energy company workers have been stalked and harassed. Highways and railroads have been shut down or blocked. The same environment everyone is trying to protect has been, ironically, polluted by these actions.

Meanwhile, increases in onshore and offshore energy production — needed to stabilize the always seesawing supply-and-demand equation and help keep business and household energy expenses like fuel and electricity low, especially for lower-income families — continues to be stonewalled by biased activists who say they’re concerned with leveling prices and protecting the air and water. However, instead of developing oil and gas here, under the most stringent regulations in the world, they pass the buck to other countries which develop energy in less environmentally-sound ways, then charge us a fortune to import.

And it’s not just American fossil fuels that get the short end of the stick.

Renewable generation projects have been shunned too. Cape Wind Associates LLC, for instance, abandoned their proposed offshore wind farm in the Nantucket Sound after opponents falsely argued that the project would have negative environmental and economic impacts. New Hampshire rejected a hydro transmission project, and New York’s ban on cleaner-burning natural gas production continues to hobble household costs and business development there.

Like Amazon’s misguided political challengers, those against these environmentally-friendly proposals repeatedly fail to see the large-scale economic impairment of their unjust behavior, and it’s backstabbing the working-class families who elected them most of all.

David Holt is President of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).

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