The State Department’s recent granting of a long-awaited permit for the Keystone XL pipeline affirmed what common sense and an exhaustive review process made clear long ago: Expanding energy infrastructure serves both U.S. economic and security interests.
Repeatedly deemed environmentally safe during a yearslong review process starting in 2008, Keystone XL is set to transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada and North Dakota’s Bakken region, dramatically enhancing U.S. energy security.
The projected economic benefits are just as significant: 42,000 jobs and $2 billion in earnings during construction.
Like the recently completed Dakota Access pipeline — a $3.78 billion investment supporting 8,000-12,000 jobs in four states — Keystone XL represents a vital investment in 21st century energy infrastructure.
But that’s just the beginning. The United States now leads the world in production and refining of oil and natural gas, and that new energy reality spells major opportunity for America’s skilled building trades workers.
Thirty-two percent of today’s construction industry workforce is employed on energy projects, amounting to more than 2 million workers.
Hundreds of energy infrastructure projects — pipelines, storage, processing and rail — are slated for development in state after state, each one representing shovel-ready, middle class-sustaining jobs that do not rely on taxpayer funding.
Essential infrastructure investments in just the oil and natural gas sector could spur up to $1.15 trillion in new private capital investment, support 1.15 million new jobs and add $120 billion on average to national GDP.
Eighty-one percent of American voters support increased energy infrastructure development. Activists who oppose pipeline construction are a small minority promoting the false idea that energy development and environmental progress are mutually exclusive.
The United States leads the world in reduction of carbon emissions, due largely to greater use of clean-burning natural gas delivered by pipelines. Natural gas is now the leading source for electricity generation, driving carbon emissions in that sector to 25-year lows.
Even under optimistic scenarios for renewable energy growth, oil and natural gas will continue to supply 60 percent of U.S. energy demands through 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And pipelines happen to be one of most efficient and environmentally safe ways to transport the energy American families and businesses need. The most recent data show that both liquid pipelines and natural gas pipelines transported crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas at a safety rate of 99.99 percent.
Attempts to thwart energy infrastructure threaten to undermine the very climate progress pipeline opponents say they want, while risking increased energy costs.
Just look at New England, home to seven of the 10 most expensive states for electricity. Despite being just a day’s drive from ample natural gas supplies, residents of the northeastern U.S. paid up to 68 percent more for electricity than the national average in the winter of 2014, while industrial users there paid up to 105 percent more.
Nationwide, reliable access to energy has helped drive down utility, product and other energy-related costs for families, contributing to a $1,337 boost to the average American household budget in 2015.
U.S. industrial electricity costs are 30-50 percent lower than those of our foreign competitors, giving manufacturers — including producers of steel, chemicals, refined fuels, plastics, fertilizers and numerous other products — a major competitive advantage.
President Donald Trump has pledged to fund “new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways.” Energy infrastructure is the backbone for it all.
America’s construction sector and our oil and natural gas industries are ready with the workers — and private capital investments — to do our part in building 21st century infrastructure.
Jack Gerard is the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. Terry O’Sullivan is the general president of Laborers’ International Union of North America. Readers may write them at API, 1220 L St. NW, suite 900, Washington, D.C., 20005.