Releasing the Promise of American Natural Gas | Commentary
American natural gas represents one of the greatest and most unexpected success stories of the past century. Only a decade ago, experts feared America was running out of this critical energy resource, and we were growing increasingly reliant on foreign imports. But innovation and technology have turned upside down this once-pessimistic outlook, putting our nation in the driver’s seat. Thanks to the shale revolution, today we have more than enough natural gas to meet our energy needs and production continues to thrive. In fact, America is now the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer.
With America’s new wealth of natural gas comes the welcome potential for lower prices for consumers, more manufacturing jobs, increased global competitiveness and energy security — but it also presents new challenges, particularly when it comes to infrastructure. Our infrastructure has simply failed to keep pace with America’s stunning turnaround in production. We can’t sustain growth or take full advantage of this energy abundance without a proper distribution network. For example, we can’t attract investment for new manufacturing if there isn’t a way to ensure we can transport this low-cost energy to new factories.
Consumers in the Northeast and Midwest are perhaps most keenly aware of natural gas infrastructure problems as they continue to be hit with painfully high heating bills every winter. Far too often, natural gas pipelines fill to capacity, leading to record high natural gas prices and spikes in the price of electricity. Last year, natural gas spot prices in New York City rose to nearly 30 times higher than the national average.
Currently, there just isn’t a workable network in place to transport the gas from the place of production to homes and businesses that are desperate for affordable energy. This difficult situation could get much worse, especially with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new power plant regulations coming down the pike.
Instead of working to improve the situation, the federal government is actually standing in the way of new energy infrastructure. Our antiquated permitting process is contributing to delays and bottlenecks. Getting a simple permit for a new natural gas pipeline can take several years.
The story is much the same for liquefied natural gas export terminals, which are now in high-demand thanks to our excess in supply. With our abundance of natural gas, we have the chance to help our allies across the globe by providing an alternative source of safe and secure energy. The prospect of America’s expanding LNG market is especially good news for our friends in Eastern Europe who are currently forced to rely on nations such as Russia to meet their energy needs. LNG exports also contribute to job creation and economic growth here at home.
Despite the geopolitical and domestic benefits, construction on LNG export facilities continues to get bogged down in federal red tape. Since 2010, the Department of Energy has only issued a final decision on five on the 38 applications to export LNG to countries with which the U.S. does not have a Free Trade Agreement.
When it comes to transporting our bounty of natural gas — whether it’s to U.S. consumers or our allies across the world — we have a problem, and that problem is government interference. But the good news is, it’s a problem that can be easily solved. We can overcome these obstacles by updating our energy policies to match our new energy realities.
The House has fast-tracked two commonsense solutions to eliminate government roadblocks. The Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, which passed the House last week by a bipartisan vote of 253-169, and the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, which will be considered this week, seek to hold government agencies accountable and establish reasonable regulatory deadlines.
Now is our chance to get these solutions over the finish line. In America’s new Congress, we will work to build the architecture of abundance we need to embrace the tremendous opportunities of American energy. Natural gas holds great promise for our energy future, but only if we cut the red tape from the past. Everyone should be able to get behind thoughtful solutions that say yes to jobs and yes to energy.
Rep. Bill Johnson is a Republican from Ohio. Rep. Mike Pompeo is a Republican from Kansas.