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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

OPINION:

The past 15 months have been a textbook example on how to tank American energy policy for years to come. President Biden campaigned on restricting pipeline permits and ending the use of fossil fuels, and from his first day in office he started enacting policies to do just that. But this administration has gone even further to stymie American energy independence, and the consequences are just beginning to be felt throughout the country.

Let’s start with the basics. In 2019, our country became a net energy exporter. How did we achieve this? It was through pro-growth, all-of-the-above energy policies that allowed oil and natural gas production to reach record highs while also utilizing nuclear and renewable energy sources. This led to fair prices at the gas pump and consistent utility costs across the nation. Fast forward now to present day and all of this has been flipped on its head.


Since January of 2021, the Democratic party has had unified control of Congress and the White House. In that time, they have restricted and outright denied pipeline permits, promoted Environmental Science Governance (ESG) for financial institutions, and blocked automation in transportation and at shipping ports. All of this has led to the energy problems that we are facing today. By limiting pipeline construction in the U.S., we have effectively dismantled our ability to ensure American-sourced energy can move across the country, as well as severely limiting our energy export capacity. Enforcing ESG-aligned policies has removed massive sums of capital from the energy sector and has sent a negative signal to the markets from the federal government. By blocking automation in ports and in other transportation services due to union pressure, we have actually made the environment dirtier than it otherwise could be.

Take, for example, the burning of coal. Does the left realize that their policies have resulted in the United States burning 23% more coal this past year? This was done under the belief that top-down regulations will “make our environment cleaner,” but they have actually made it dirtier. When you use the regulatory system to discourage the use of viable energy options, you do not lessen reliance on the need for energy overall, you just force it to be pulled from other sources. In this instance, regulatory actions against pipelines and fossil fuels have led to coal being a main supplier of energy again which has done the opposite of the Democrats’ rhetorical goal of utilizing “clean energy.”

However, if we put all that aside, the most fascinating part of this administration’s energy agenda is the refusal to accept solutions that already exist. The President shut down the Keystone XL pipeline with the stroke of a pen on his first day in office, seemingly to protect our environment. This administration is also keen to reduce methane emissions. If the argument is that methane is being released from leaky, unsafe pipelines, is there an inexpensive solution that can capture methane at staggeringly high rates? This is where creativity and innovative solutions come into play. For example, demonstrations have shown that copper mixed with clay can be boxed around a pipeline and capture methane emissions immediately. Or, what about the clean air initiatives proposed by the Democrats that would cost the country trillions of dollars. What if we used citizen science and crowdsourced clean air reporting that would show specific areas of poor air quality? With a cost-effective sensor that plugs into your phone and can be purchased online by any American in the country, we could have the best sourced air measurements in the entire world, and they would not be reliant on stationary sensors that aggregate for entire metropolitan areas.

One of the most effective policy changes we can make in order to promote the building of energy infrastructure is to reform the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which has become a bureaucratic burden for our country. When it was first signed into law over 50 years ago, NEPA had good intentions. However, it has fallen victim to Washington bureaucracy and has stymied growth in public energy policy. We can reform NEPA to ensure individual states have the right to oversee their own environmental infrastructure projects, and we can expedite the process to ensure projects take only a year or two to complete, not a decade. This solution exists, but it takes a willing Congress and a willing President to turn it into law.

For the United States to become energy independent once again, we must embrace pro-growth policies and accept and scale up solutions that exist. We cannot continue to cut viable - and needed - energy sources for the sole purpose of scoring political points. The path that the Democrats have led us down has resulted in the energy crisis we are experiencing now, it is not solely due to the war in Ukraine. However, we have the opportunity now to change direction and place American energy policy back on the path to independence. All it takes is a willingness to do so, and I am up for that fight.

• U.S. Representative David Schweikert, Arizona Republican, serves on the Ways and Means Committee. He represents the state’s 6th Congressional District and also sits on the bicameral Joint Economic Committee, serving as the Senior House Republican Member, Co-Chairs the Valley Fever Task force with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is the Republican Co-Chair of the Blockchain Caucus, Co-Chair of the Tunisia Caucus, and Co-Chair of the Tele Health Caucus.


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