We should never lose sight of the fact that America’s energy revolution has been led by four competitive advantages.
- Technology and Innovation. The U.S. has the most advanced technical know-how in the world. Here, scientists, engineers and other professionals in the energy industry are using it to produce energy more efficiently, affordably, cleanly and safely.
- Free Enterprise and Capital Markets. America has an economic system that allows for and encourages the formation and deployment of capital, and a tax and legal structure that allows a reasonable return on the investments needed to finance large, capital-intensive projects.
- Sound Regulatory Structure. While not be perfect, our regulatory regime allows for — and encourages — the sustainable development of our energy resources.
- World Class Infrastructure. Our pipelines, power plants, offshore facilities and distribution systems are second to none. Our energy infrastructure, though, needs maintenance and upgrades.
That’s why the current administration is pursuing a policy of energy dominance, and it is working. However, the strategy is undoubtedly a political hot potato, and there are many policymakers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who do not share the same vision. They also understand the way to derail this newfound energy dominance is to attack the above four pillars and render them less effective.
As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently said, regarding technology and innovation, "we have relit the pilot light of American energy under this President. We are incorporating industry innovation, best science and best practices to improve reliability, safety and environmental stewardship.”
Unfortunately, opponents of energy dominance are targeting research and development dollars that have been applied to energy. At the same time, industry spending on R&D has declined. This is a dangerous trend.
To facilitate free enterprise and healthy capital markets, the administration is working with Congress to enact sweeping tax reform and working to address some of the constraints unnecessarily placed on our banking system and investment community following the 2008 financial crisis. The result has been a boom for the entire economy and domestic energy sector. Yet, strong political and cultural forces are seeking to undo the tax cuts and put the shackles back on our banking and financial services sector.
Regulatory certainty is also critical to continued energy dominance. The administration has embarked on a series of ambitious regulatory reforms designed to create more certainty, eliminate needless red tape and provide more common-sense regulations based on sound science. Case in point: The effort to reform the so-called methane rule regarding emissions from oil and gas activities. The old regulation arbitrarily assumed certain emissions were occurring; the new rule being pursued would use real-world emissions data compiled by the industry and academia research consortium Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) to design a regulation more fact- and science-based — and achievable.
Still, anti-development policymakers and NGOs continue to accuse the administration of “rolling back” regulations at the expense of the environment. This is nonsense.
President Trump campaigned on revitalizing American infrastructure to help make the U.S. more competitive globally, plus spur economic development. While the administration’s infrastructure initiatives have yet to draw strong congressional support, they have taken important steps to encourage private infrastructure development through regulatory reforms and support for capital formation. Here’s why: The energy industry needs new and improved infrastructure such as pipelines, transmission lines, ports and export facilities. But in addition to broadly attacking efforts to support infrastructure development, anti-development groups are targeting specific projects with significant resources and the policymakers who support them because of the jobs, prosperity and social benefits they would generate.
Elections have consequences, and certainly this week’s midterm elections will hold true to form. Regardless of the choices that were made at the ballot box, anti-development groups will no doubt continue their onslaught, and we must continue to fight them every which way in the pursuit of U.S. energy dominance.
To do that, we just need to see the four pillars above — and keep them going.
Jack Belcher is executive vice president for HBW Resources and consults energy and transportation clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, situational risk management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also Managing Director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition.
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