- - Thursday, December 13, 2018

From the Bakken’s booming oil fields to the high-yielding Marcellus shale formation in the Midwest, the United States continues to produce record outputs of oil and natural gas. The benefits of strong energy production are multifaceted, because not only does the industry play a crucial role in our economy, supporting more than 10 million American jobs; it is an invaluable component of our way of life, responsible for heating our homes, fueling our vehicles and providing reliable electricity.

As a result of rising levels of production, the United States has become increasingly self-sustaining when it comes to our energy needs. But the benefits extend beyond our borders. The United States is well-positioned to support our allies across the globe, from developing nations in Latin America to member states of the European Union.

American energy exports can provide stability to the international energy market and foster more prosperous relationships between the United States and countries seeking reliable energy, while bolstering American foreign policy objectives in the process. Look what’s happening today in Ukraine. Russia seized Ukrainian ships and crew members. Crimea is already lost to Russian criminality. What’s next? Fundamentally, this is all about European Union access to Russian oil and gas. The United States must be a viable alternative.

But in order to realize America’s full energy potential both here and overseas for our partners, officials must prioritize expanding our critical energy infrastructure by welcoming investment and ensuring regulatory certainty.

In the coming year, the Trump administration may be doing just that. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently emphasized the president’s priority of growing our infrastructure, including pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and other energy shipping improvements. Mr. Kudlow maintained that the administration would like to “revise the U.S. shipping industry” and “export oil [and] natural gas to Europe and to Asia.” We must be in a position to make this happen.

The United States has encouraged European countries to limit their reliance on Russian energy, offering more stable American LNG alternatives instead. European leaders appear to be interested and receptive to U.S. energy, and willing to support building new LNG import terminals to accommodate shipments. Germany has already offered support to build in a terminal in the northern part of the country, with others likely to follow suit.

In the United States and abroad, it is clear that there is demand for expansion in our energy infrastructure network. Pipeline bottlenecks have continued to impact drillers and limit production in both the Bakken in North Dakota and the Permian in West Texas.

Modern pipelines are the safest, most efficient method of transporting product, from extraction until it reaches consumer markets. In fact, 99.999 percent of crude oil and petroleum products shipped by pipeline safely reach their destination without incident. But despite their impressive safety record, pipeline projects around the country have faced a number of challenges.

In recent weeks, a federal judge in Montana ordered an immediate halt to construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline. This latest block is an accurate depiction of the challenges that oil and gas projects encounter across the country. James Coleman, energy law professor at Southern Methodist University, contends environmental lawsuits like the one triggering Keystone XL’s work-stop have the potential to delay projects for years.

And the challenges do span across the country. In Virginia, the Mountain Valley Pipeline has faced a series of regulatory hurdles and excessive political scrutiny. In Louisiana, despite obtaining all necessary permits and garnering statewide support, Bayou Bridge has been met with increasing adversity from fringe activists and legal issues.

In order to best utilize our fossil fuels, meet our energy needs and provide reliable fuels for our allies around the world, we must prioritize the safe completion of pipeline projects currently underway and welcome future investment. While thorough evaluations and careful analysis are critical steps of the process, permits must be streamlined and regulations clear and consistent. It is time for U.S. officials to put aside partisan politics, focus on the facts and understand the significant need for infrastructure development.

James “Spider” Marks is a retired U.S. Army major general and president of the Marks Collaborative.

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