U.S. Energy Secretary: Natural gas pipelines key to unlocking America’s energy potential

Wed, September 02, 2020

Recently, the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) blocked a water permit needed to advance an extension of the Mountain Valley pipeline. Weeks earlier, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was scrapped in the context of an unfavorable regulatory and political environment for natural gas in Virginia. And who can forget the cancellation of the Access Northeast Pipeline in 2017, which led directly to the importation of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet home heating needs in New England during a severe cold snap in 2018?  

One might be confused as to why the northeast would need Russian LNG when there are such abundant supplies just a few hours away in Appalachia. How could it be that as countries in Eastern Europe are desperate to reduce their reliance on Russian gas and the geopolitical muscle that often comes with it, the US is unnecessarily importing it? 

The answer: Plans to build the critical energy infrastructure, necessary to benefit from our nation’s abundant natural resources, are often blocked by radical environmentalists, activist judges, overzealous regulators and opportunistic politicians.  

These cancellations — from New England to North Carolina — have been cheered by the fringe as a win for the environment and for energy consumers. Blocking these projects is a win for neither.

To unleash American energy dominance and promote private investment, President Trump has issued Executive Orders to expand energy infrastructure by streamlining federal processes surrounding energy infrastructure development like natural gas pipelines.

We must continue to advance natural gas pipeline development in a safe, responsible way if we truly want to provide consumers choice and affordability in the delivery of clean and reliable energy.

First, increasing domestic natural gas infrastructure and use will provide consumers more choice and make energy more affordable. While special interest groups celebrate California cities banning the use of natural gas, Californians are paying the price. In 2019, Californians paid some of the highest electricity prices in the country.

Likewise, states in New England that have blocked the development of energy infrastructure join California in paying higher rates. In fact, in 2018 when New England needed to import Russian LNG to meet demand, natural gas costs rose 30% over the previous year.  Meanwhile, states like Texas, Pennsylvania and the Dakotas that produce natural gas, and the nearby states that use it, pay some of the lowest rates in the country and continue to enjoy clean air and a healthy environment. 

Next, maintaining a diverse mix of fuels, including natural gas, ensures energy reliability in the event of a weather emergency. Californians are learning this hard lesson as we speak. As rolling blackouts due to extreme heat deny power to millions, state officials are considering re-activating shuttered natural gas power plants to meet demand.

The “bomb cyclone” winter storm that struck New England in 2018 caused a major spike in heating demand that, according to a National Energy Technology Lab report, could not have been met without power from coal plants. These two examples highlight the critical need to maintain use of our most dependable baseload energy sources.

Finally, using natural gas will continue to help America continue its global leadership in clean air, including in energy-related carbon emissions. In fact, our nation’s air quality (in particular, the combined emissions of criteria air pollutants and their precursors, regulated under the Clean Air Act) has improved by 77 percent over the last 50 years, including 7 percent under President Trump. As the cleanest of the fossil fuels, natural gas should play a large role in our energy future. But we need the pipelines and other energy infrastructure to reap the consumer and environmental benefits of our abundant natural gas reserves.

During the 1970s, the United States experienced what happens when a country relies on foreign nations for energy: fuel shortages and price increases. So we set out to become energy independent by using our domestic resources to meet our energy needs. 

And we succeeded. The U.S. began this year as the world’s leader in oil and natural gas production, no longer defenseless against energy disruptions and political volatility around the world. 

Yet we risk a repeat of past experiences if we refuse to develop the energy infrastructure needed to unlock our full energy potential. The Trump Administration is committed to expanding pipeline development that will unleash our abundant domestic energy sources while providing choice, affordability, and reliability to consumers.


Original Article - Dan Brouillette, The Fayetteville Observer