The Critical Importance of Investing in American Energy Infrastructure

The Critical Importance of Investing in American Energy Infrastructure
Lajos Soos/MTI via AP

With Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer meeting with President Trump recently to continue their conversation on infrastructure, the importance of rebuilding, modernizing and expanding America’s infrastructure should remain front and center. From highways, bridges, roads and airports to water and sewer systems, pipelines and the energy grid, there are few areas of the U.S. economy, and few aspects of our modern lives, that don’t benefit from our nation’s infrastructure – precisely why infrastructure investment is a rare issue worthy of widespread consensus. 

Earlier this month, this consensus was on display as both parties touted the importance of infrastructure investment. I couldn’t agree more with a statement from Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer following their last meeting with President Trump: “Building America’s infrastructure is about creating jobs immediately, and also bolstering the commerce it facilitates, advancing public health with clean air and clean water, and improving the safety of our transportation system, and addressing climate change with clean energy, clean transportation and resilient infrastructure.”

For the energy industry, improving infrastructure is crucial to ensuring that Americans across the country can reap the benefits of the U.S. energy revolution– going beyond affordable energy to include lower emissions and cleaner, more efficient products. We’ve known for a while that the increased use of natural gas in power generation is the main reason U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen to their lowest level in a generation, even as global emissions have risen 50 percent since 1990. We also know that, since 2005, the EIA estimates that natural gas has been responsible for more CO2 emissions reductions in electricity generation than renewables.

For these reasons and more, demand for natural gas and oil has grown across the country. Upgrading our nation’s pipelines, storage tanks, export terminals, waterways, ports and more, is vital to delivering the reliable and affordable flow of energy resources we all count on to cook our food, heat our homes and improve the quality of our lives. The United States leads the world in natural gas and oil production, yet there are manufacturers, businesses and American families in parts of the country who aren’t adequately connected to America’s energy abundance – and won’t be without new and/or expanded state of the art pipelines and other infrastructure to deliver energy to markets and consumers.

U.S. natural gas and oil pipelines are remarkably safe, reliable and resilient. Our industry utilizes highly trained workers, best-in-class standards, the latest advanced technologies, continually updated leading practices and ongoing collaboration with regulators to ensure that pipelines remain one of the safest ways to deliver the energy we use every day. For both physical and cybersecurity, the U.S. natural gas and oil industry has demonstrated its resiliency time and again.

However, to maintain this strong safety record and ensure consumer access to clean, abundant, and affordable energy, it is imperative that the regulatory environment and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) keep pace in effectively addressing current and future safety challenges. We recognize and appreciate PHMSA’s efforts to implement past Congressional mandates, but more work needs to be done to institute practical and performance-based regulations. As the process for reauthorization of PHMSA and other safety programs moves forward, we must ensure that they maximize our investment in people, technology and safety culture to effectively and efficiently advance pipeline safety.

Furthermore, building and maintaining a 21st-century energy infrastructure network will require increases in the efficiency, transparency and certainty of infrastructure permitting, as well as updated processes for improving existing pipelines and allowing new pipelines to be built in areas where energy development takes place.

By addressing these challenges and modernizing our energy infrastructure system we can provide opportunities for major economic growth and job creation, and realize the full benefits of our nation’s energy abundance for all Americans.

Robin Rorick is the Vice President of Midstream and Industry Operations at the American Petroleum Institute.

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