Pocketbook issues are what families in Arkansas and across the U.S. spend their time thinking about, planning around and hoping for minimal, manageable fluctuations that don’t significantly impact their bottom lines.
One way their wallets and bank accounts get squeezed to the point of genuine hardship and frustration is when energy prices rise above what they have budgeted for. When costs at the pump or to heat and light homes increase, it has real-world consequences. Suddenly, moms and dads, grandparents and other caregivers start having to make tough choices in order to keep paying bills and afford life’s basic necessities.
In recent years, the energy renaissance we’ve experienced as a nation helped usher in lower prices as well as reduced carbon dioxide emissions. But now it is under threat.
Policies like canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and pausing new oil and gas drilling on federal lands make little sense to Arkansans. And what’s worse, the consequences are already being felt in my state.
When the news about halting Keystone XL reverberated through the country and into Arkansas, one Little Rock business, Welspun Tubular, took an immediate hit. Based at an industrial site located within an intermodal port along the Arkansas River, the company was set to produce more than one million feet of 36-inch pipe for the project. The company employs 600 workers and added 50 to its facility to help fulfill that contract. The demise of the project has created many questions and few answers.
Arkansas pipefitters and welders are also suffering as a result of this move. Members of a local pipeline union have already been laid off and 200 more lost an employment opportunity when the project was canceled. Making matters worse, the justification for scrapping Keystone XL was partly under the guise of environmental concerns despite the fact that moving the oil extracted from Canada using other modes of transportation will produce more carbon emissions than transporting it through the pipeline.
In the Natural State, we of course want to balance our energy needs with environmental preservation concerns and strike an appropriate balance that protects and conserves natural resources while also providing the economic opportunities that drive our state forward and don’t harm the finances of hardworking families.
That’s why I support an all-of-the-above approach to secure American energy independence including wind, solar and nuclear. This must be a cornerstone for creating cleaner and more sustainable energy production.
Arkansas is blessed with a wonderful landscape and incredible natural resources. We are proud of this legacy and seek to maintain it. At the same time, we also want to harness the energy sources at our disposal to grow our economy and help make life easier and more affordable for working families. We’ve already begun that work.
Solar energy production is one such example. One Arkansas community has generated enough solar power to create enough savings to provide teachers in the school district as much as $15,000 raises a clear win-win. A rice producing mill in another part of the state has recently announced an investment in solar panels that is expected to build the state’s largest commercial solar power and battery storage system, with savings projected to exceed $100 million over the next 30 years.
We are making progress on reaching sustainable energy production that can transform the way we live and work. In Arkansas, that advancement is coming through a balanced, commonsense approach rather than drastic moves to eliminate economical, traditional energy sources and cost jobs, or letting the federal government dictate how and where we generate power.
These lessons all ultimately come back to the pocketbooks of families and businesses in the Natural State. I encourage national policymakers to take note of the example we have provided.
• Senator John Boozman, Arkansas Republican, serves as Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. He also serves on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
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