Building More Energy Infrastructure Is in Our Best Interest | Commentary

Posted February 24, 2015 at 2:04pm

When the United Stated entered World War II in 1941, oil was an essential part of military operations around the world. The U.S. was rich with the abundant natural resources it needed to protect the homeland and help its allies, but there was one problem. Transportation bottlenecks restricted movement to vital distribution points along the East Coast, and German U-boat attacks along the Eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean were successfully cutting off the resources the allies needed to fight. Losses mounted until August of 1941, when the federal government and industry leaders partnered to protect U.S. resources and find a better, safer and faster way to transport oil. The result was the largest pipeline construction project the nation had ever seen. The Inch Pipelines — the Big Inch and Little Inch — were each 1,200 miles long, running from Texas to New Jersey. By the end of the war in 1945, the Inch Pipelines had safely delivered more than 350 million barrels of oil to the East Coast. The rest is history.

A decade ago, the United States faced surging oil and gas prices and questions about where to get the resources to fuel our domestic expansion. Congress federalized the permitting process for construction of liquefied natural gas import terminals to provide for our common needs. Infrastructure investment was flat or declining, and our environment faced rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, the United States is once again rich in resources. Thanks to government and industry partnerships and technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, we’re now producing much more energy than the nation can consume. While no longer under threat of arms, the U.S. finds itself in another situation of necessary innovation.

The United States is one of the world’s top producers of oil and gas, and gasoline prices have fallen for 17 consecutive weeks. The House of Representatives passed HR 351 in an effort to expedite the construction of LNG export terminals. Our economy and industries are flourishing, and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen significantly. Now is the time to prepare for the future.

Currently, domestic midstream oil and gas companies are constructing storage tanks, compressors and pumps. These industries create demand for highly skilled and technically trained scientists and engineers, as well as construction workers and pipe-fitters. Midstream companies also support manufacturing businesses throughout the Rust Belt and the rest of the country. To continue to the revitalization of these businesses and support new and formerly displaced workers, we must construct more pipelines.

Investing in infrastructure at home will secure our economic future, improve the state of the environment, employ tens of thousands American workers and support U.S. families. Additionally, U.S. pipelines are paid for privately, cost the American taxpayer nothing to operate, and generate tax revenues for schools, hospitals, and towns.

Expanding our success starts with establishing a system to permit, construct and operate domestic energy infrastructure. Many oil and gas fields are located in remote areas. Gathering, processing, and transportation lines allow producers to capture additional product, currently being flared, and benefit from the sale at market. Pipelines are also the most environmentally friendly way to transport products, so additional pipelines are critical to continuing our environmental success as well. They also remain the safest and fastest way to transport oil.

Industry is ready to invest more than $200 billion to construct and operate thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines. The government has to do its part by improving the permitting process. We have this opportunity to shape our nation’s future. As lawmakers and leaders, we have an obligation to support policies that the serve the national interests and ensure prosperity for generations to come.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, serves on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittees on Energy and Power, Environment and the Economy, and Oversight and Investigations, and he is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.