Once completely dependent upon imports for our critical energy needs, the United States is finally gaining the upper hand. Our domestic production is so strong that it has shifted the entire energy debate. For generations, American political leaders challenged us to dream of energy independence. Now the Trump administration is using the term “energy dominance.”
The administration spent the last week highlighting policies that can help us transition from dependence to dominance. Speaking Wednesday, the president said that developing our abundant domestic resources could “usher in a golden age of American energy dominance.”
The transition has already begun. The United States has been a net energy importer since 1953, but in the last decade hydraulic fracturing has opened up huge new energy reserves. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) projects that the country will become a net energy exporter by 2026. That is only nine years away.
But the EIA warns that this better future will not happen by itself. “Without substantial improvements in technology and more favorable resource availability, U.S. energy production declines in the 2030s,” the agency concludes.
The United States can avoid that decline by investing in the technology and infrastructure needed to continue developing the resources within our own borders. The private sector will take care of this if the government does not stand in the way.
Businesses created the hydraulic fracturing that opened up U.S. shale reserves and put the country on the path to energy independence. Now they are working to lay a new network of pipelines so those energy resources can be delivered to homes, businesses, manufacturers, electricity generators and export facilities. Washington has an important role to play here.
Currently, more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines deliver 65 percent of the nation’s energy, according to government data. But that network does not connect the newly developed reserves to the places where this energy is most in demand.
The country needs new pipelines to complete those connections. The federal government permits these pipelines. If the government is serious about making the United States energy dominant in this new century, then it has to see that those pipelines are built.
The financial gains from this buildout are tremendous. Appalachia, known nationwide for its low standard of living and economic challenges, could become “the largest supplier of new natural gas in the U.S.” It is home to 700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Pipeline construction jobs follow oil and gas production jobs in areas of the country where work is desperately needed. The end result is more affordable energy that can help households save money and businesses expand.
Nationwide, expanding the pipeline network will lead to economic growth as businesses have increased access to a reliable source of less costly domestic energy.
There are national security benefits too. When we become a net exporter of energy, we will have even more influence in global affairs. Being able to supply oil and natural gas to Europe and Asia will boost our economy and give us a tool for countering the influence of other major exporters — like Russia and various Middle Eastern states.
The United States can become energy dominant. But to get there we have to build more infrastructure. The country needs more pipelines — and needs them now.
Russia is not waiting for us. It is spreading its influence by selling as much oil and natural gas as it can. China and India are not waiting for us to reboot U.S. manufacturing by producing our own supply of affordable energy.
There is no time to lose. People from economically struggling parts of the country get this. Does everyone else?
Craig Stevens is the spokesperson for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting key infrastructure investments.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.