The United States has recently become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.
How urgent is America’s need to develop new ways to transport oil and natural gas? A recent article in The Wall Street Journal summarized our unhealthy dependence on rail for energy transportation:
“Today, about 939,000 barrels of oil a day are riding the rails, about 11% of the total pumped in the U.S., according to data from the federal Surface Transportation Board, chugging across plains and over bridges, rumbling through cities and towns on their way to refineries on the coasts and along the Gulf of Mexico. If all the railcars loaded with crude on one day were hitched to a single locomotive, the resulting train would be about 17 miles long.”
The evidence is clear that America is in the midst of an economic revolution with the potential to last for the next 50 to 100 years. The combination of enormous American shale rock formations, horizontal directional drilling, and hydraulic fracturing to release the natural gas and oil is changing the American economic landscape in a way that a decade ago was unthinkable.
Our nation, once thought to be forever dependent on foreign energy, has in the last year become the world’s largest producer of gas and oil. And by all reasonable predictions, within the next 10 years, the United States has the ability to be energy independent.
The implications of harnessing the oil and gas resources we possess include:
• Creating millions of quality and good paying jobs on top of the hundreds of thousands already created; • An accelerating American industrial renaissance prompted by the low cost of American energy compared to nations in Europe and Asia; and, • Increased national security by eliminating the need to import gas and oil from unstable regions (The most casual look at events in the Middle East and Russia underscores this).
In fully reaping the benefits of our gas and oil bonanza, America must get many things right. One such thing is to establish at the state and national level reasonable and predictable regulatory policies and procedures for expeditiously and sustainably building the thousands of oil and gas transmission pipelines needed.
The best natural gas well drilled in the United States in 2013 was a mere 110 miles northwest of Manhattan. Without the ability to safely transport the gas produced by that well to where it is needed the most, be it New York City or wherever, the gas doesn’t do us any good.
So for the sake of this generation and our posterity, let’s figure out the right balance in energy and environmental policies and regulations to get safe pipelines built. The next 50 to 100 years of American economic and national security future depend on it.
Col. (Ret) Marc Hildenbrand Senior Advisor
Marc joined Dawson & Associates in 2012. He was formerly Commander, 937th Engineer Group, Fort Riley, KS and Baghdad, Iraq.