By ROBIN RORICK
Hundreds of thousands of miles of oil and natural gas pipelines crisscross the United States, safely delivering the energy that fuels transportation, powers manufacturing and keeps the lights on at homes and businesses.
Beyond keeping affordable energy moving to homes, schools, hospitals and manufacturers, energy infrastructure plays an integral role in job creation, economic growth and the reliability of the electric grid.
The U.S. energy resurgence has added stability to world energy markets, putting downward pressure on prices and shielding Americans from overseas disruptions.
The United States leads the world in producing and refining oil and natural gas, but that wouldnâ€™t mean much if we didnâ€™t have infrastructure capacity to transport affordable energy throughout the nation.
Building pipelines and other infrastructure to keep pace with growing production could support up to 1,047,000 jobs each year on average through 2035.
Eighty-one percent of American voters support expanding U.S. energy infrastructure, no doubt driven by recognition of the economic benefits.
Less recognized is the role energy infrastructure plays in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions from power generation have dipped to near 30-year lows due almost entirely to greater use of clean natural gas â€” delivered largely by pipeline.
Natural gas is now the leading source of power generation in the United States, and the clean fuel is prized in the power sector not only due to its affordability and environmental benefits but its reliability.
Reliability means the continued operation of the electric grid and power plants that run on natural gas provide constantly running power and can quickly adjust to efficiently meet the changing power needs throughout the day.
That flexibility and other unique attributes make natural gas a fuel of choice to help ensure customers are paying for efficient, responsive and affordable energy.
Then thereâ€™s the geographic diversity of the natural gas supply system. Providing for multiple flows in all directions across the country, the natural gas production and transportation network has helped to mitigate disruptions, such as construction, maintenance and even extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey.
When natural gas systems were shut down in the Houston area and large parts of the Gulf Coast due to the storm, the geographic diversity of natural gas operations kept supplies flowing and prices stable.
Whether its natural gas heading to the power plant or crude oil destined for the refinery and on to your gas tank, energy infrastructure ties it all together â€” safely. The most recent data show both liquid and natural gas pipelines deliver their products at a safety rate of 99.999 percent.
Government projections show weâ€™ll need more natural gas and oil to meet energy demand in the coming decades, even if use of renewables increases significantly.
Itâ€™s no wonder a recent study shows that costs for the average American household could jump $4,550 in 2040 if the U.S. imposed drastic restrictions like halting production and blocking infrastructure construction.
On the other hand, the strength of U.S. natural gas and oil production helped households save an average $1,337 on utility bills and other energy-related expenses in 2015 while drivers saved over $550 at the pump alone.
With winter weather on the way, household energy expenses are particularly important, as regions with pipeline constraints know all too well.
Failure to approve needed infrastructure is a big factor impacting costs in the northeastern U.S., which is home to seven of the top 10 most expensive states for electricity costs.
Unless the region invests in energy infrastructure to connect it to nearby energy supplies, the regionâ€™s households and businesses could see an estimated $5.4 billion in higher energy costs by 2020, according to a study from the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy.
The choice seems pretty clear. When you peel away the politics and focus on the facts, pipelines are a win for jobs, consumer savings and energy reliability.
Rorick is group director of mainstream operations at the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association that represents all aspects of Americaâ€™s oil and natural gas industry.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.