The United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinklerfitters, Welders and HVAC Technicians (UA) is a multi-craft union that represents over 340,000 members in the United States and Canada. Our members are engaged in the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems and many of them work at refineries, power-generating facilities and petrochemical plants.
We are certainly no strangers to the energy industry, and we wholeheartedly believe that an overall approach — inclusive of economic impact, grid reliability and climate change — is the best formula when it comes to developing a balanced energy mix.
When deployed with the most current technology available, renewable resources such as solar and wind power, along with nuclear energy and fossil fuels including natural gas and coal, we can drastically reduce greenhouse gases.
These energy sources will also help grow our economy and maintain a reliable grid to manage the supply and demand of electricity with little disruption.
Over 60 percent of our man-hours come from the fossil fuels within the energy sector. The UA supports that sector through $250 million of privately funded and jointly administered apprenticeship programs. This investment ensures that our membership is provided with the education and training to demonstrate their highly skilled crafts within the energy industry. These careers also afford our members the opportunity to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle and receive the benefits of health care and a pension plan, both fully financed by their own money.
Our members are integral parts of their communities. They coach Little League, work as volunteer firefighters and perform countless hours of community service in the places where we live and where we work.
UA members have helped build some of the largest construction projects in North America — like the iconic Empire State Building and the National Harbor — and infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Ivanpah Solar Power Facility and the Canadian Oil Sands development, which have proven vital to improving North America’s energy independence. The UA was there on every one of these immense enterprises and delivered a high-quality, safe and productive product every single day.
Our country has tremendous opportunity in the energy industry, but it all hinges on an enlightened administration in Washington, D.C., to provide the policies needed to reach our full potential as an energy-independent nation.
We have massive shale gas resources in this country that can turn the United States into a manufacturing giant once again. By producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions, the move to natural gas-fired power plants is already making a positive impact in the reduction of our climate-damaging emissions.
In addition, our nuclear power industry can bring a new generation of reactors to market that are extremely safe and leave a carbon footprint comparable to renewable resources — but with a greater output of energy.
Carbon capture technology used in the coal industry is advancing to generate a realistic and attainable option for furthering our efforts in combatting climate change. The missed opportunity here will be if we continue to stall our technological advancements and keep them from being brought to market. President Obama overreached with the Clean Power Plan by giving more favorable weight to statements out of the environmental community rather than relying on sound scientific research and technology advancements to formulate a balanced energy policy. Implementation of the Clean Power Plan would have prematurely closed many of our coal-generation facilities without an opportunity to update them with new advancements in energy technology that result in a much smaller climate impact.
Renewables like wind and solar power are great clean energy options and should be part of the energy equation. But until wind and solar can generate and store electricity on a commercial level, we must engage other clean energy options to ensure reliable power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To date, renewable energy makes up less than 10 percent of the generated power in the United States.
America scored an unsettling D+ on the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers — no improvement from our 2013 report card.
If we are to make any sort of significant improvement, estimates indicate that it will require an investment of upwards of $3.6 trillion. It is certainly clear that we must generate the financial resources to pay for this large infrastructure overhaul that our country so desperately needs. President Trump wants to spend $1 trillion and that’s a great start, but the UA wants to hear him talk about Project Labor Agreements and Davis-Bacon protections for this work.
Overall, the president is moving the “energy and infrastructure” needle in the right direction, and the opportunities for the UA, our members and their communities will be epic.
He wants to expedite the permitting and regulatory process when it comes to construction projects. This will be a refreshing approach, as most large projects today spend more time in regulatory purgatory than it takes to actually complete the build.
The United States needs new pipelines, bridges, airports, water treatment plants and a variety of new and upgraded infrastructure to keep our country in tip-top shape and position us to be an economic superpower.
Our members are stand-up citizens who go to their jobs every day and perform the work required to generate power, refine gasoline, manufacture medicines and ultimately make North America the greatest, and safest, place to live on earth.
We believe that the Trump administration has the vision to step up to the plate and set the policies and seize the opportunities necessary to achieve energy independence and provide economic growth.
With our need for fossil fuels increasing faster than we are developing clean energy resources, if we shift our focus in the right direction, we can reduce our carbon footprint while creating good paying jobs for good men and women — jobs for welders, steamfitters, plumbers, service technicians, sprinklerfitters and pipefitters.
The UA is focused and ready to make this happen. It is good for our citizens, it is good for our communities, and it is good for the overall health and stability of North America.
• Mark McManus is General President of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.