Opinion: Growing America’s Energy Future (Morning Consult)

Opinion: Growing America’s Energy Future (Morning Consult)

Growing America’s Energy Future
By Barry Russell, IPAA President and CEO
Morning Consult Opinion
March 6, 2018

America’s energy producers are the backbone of our nation’s security and economic growth. Yet, as our country faces the considerable challenge of meeting our future energy needs, companies working day in and day out to provide these vital energy resources need a streamlined federal regulatory system to keep powering America.

As an industry, independent oil and natural gas companies are responsible for 54 percent of U.S. oil and 85 percent of U.S. natural gas production, supporting new job growth and economic development through critical capital investments and tax revenues in towns and states across the nation.

This economic activity has also propelled the United States to become a world leader in oil and natural gas production. As the International Energy Agency recently projected, “This year promises to be a record-setting one for the United States,” outpacing Russia and Saudi Arabia in production levels.

The United States is also on track to become a net energy exporter four years earlier than originally projected, according to the Department of Energy. This new paradigm gives us the opportunity to deliver reliable, affordable and clean-burning energy to our allies while supporting the economy here at home and strengthening our energy security.

Our country’s leading position among the world’s energy leaders is being amplified by officials in the Trump administration, who recognize the tremendous impacts independent producers are making and have encouraged continued economic growth within the energy sector by promoting infrastructure investment, streamlining permitting and re-evaluating production potential. But much of our nation’s energy potential remains untapped.

The economic resurgence of America’s oil and natural gas industry today is made possible by responsible, highly regulated exploration and production of our vital natural resources – development that occurs hand-in-hand with the protection of the environments we operate in. Be it offshore or on, America’s independent producers work every day to mitigate impacts on the land, invest in conservation and restoration, and implement new technological methods such as horizontal drilling that enables a softer footprint on the surface. This development needs sound oversight, not regulatory obstruction, and today in Washington, there is still much red tape to cut.

Duplicate and all-too-often ineffective regulatory blockades threaten the ability to innovate and progress. Independent producers are committed to utilizing cutting-edge technology, building critical infrastructure and creating the well-paying jobs and energy that keep our country moving forward while protecting the environment we all care for. Smart regulatory policies are critical to safeguarding this potential and ensuring continued success.

Federal bureaucracy has slowed the permitting process and removed authority from the state regulators who traditionally oversee these activities due to their unique understanding of the geology and environment in their regions. Congress should cooperate with federal agencies to ensure that federal laws safely and appropriately delegate to states and provide adequate funding for their work.

Regulatory barriers to building new energy infrastructure also create supply challenges and environmental concerns for America’s energy producers. If a company is unable to safely move its product to market via midstream infrastructure partners, it may be forced to shut in production and flare off gas for safety purposes – the same clean-burning, affordable natural gas that would otherwise be provided to American consumers to heat their homes. Because the United States lacks sufficient infrastructure to move its energy supplies to consumers safely and effectively, cities like Boston are left to import Russian gas to their ports due to no shortage of American supply, but simply because we don’t have the appropriate pipeline infrastructure in place. Is this truly the answer for America’s energy security?

The increased use of American natural gas is also critical for our nation’s environmental goals. Clean-burning natural gas has helped reduce carbon emissions in the United States to their lowest level since 1994 and decreased our nation’s overall natural gas imports. Even though our industry’s tireless work has already made these reductions possible, streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure development is integral to continue providing Americans with affordable, reliable energy while minimizing environmental impacts.

American energy dominance, economic prosperity and environmental safety are all inextricably linked. We must do everything we can to produce the energy we all rely upon each day, while safeguarding the communities and environments we all cherish. But doing so requires a smart regulatory framework that supports growth, not hinders it. We are confident the administration’s newly proposed infrastructure plan is a step in the right direction toward removing the roadblocks that currently inhibit important and necessary energy projects, but there is still more to be done to secure America’s energy future.

America’s independent oil and natural gas producers are committed to this future, and the current administration has shown its support. It’s now time for Congress to codify these important reforms to ensure our nation’s true energy potential.

Barry Russell is president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the leading national trade association of independent oil and natural gas producers and service companies in the United States.

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