Shortly after being sworn into office, President Biden used the power of the pen to weaken America’s energy independence by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and killing the Keystone XL pipeline. Without a robust energy sector and the necessary infrastructure to sustain it, our nation is likely to see higher energy costs and a sluggish economic recovery from this pandemic. To meet America’s energy demands, provide jobs, and reduce environmental impacts, we must build more a comprehensive energy infrastructure, not less.
When it broke that the President planned to unilaterally halt the Keystone XL pipeline, news outlets were flooded with stories about the tens of thousands of jobs that would either be lost or never come to fruition. A top union leader, Richard Trumka, said in an interview, “If you’re looking at a [Keystone XL] pipeline and you’re saying we’re going to put it down, now what are you going to do to create the same good-paying jobs in that area?” While the long-term impacts of anti-energy policies are perhaps the most concerning, we cannot forget the immediate impact they have on employment during today’s economy. In response to where Keystone XL pipeline workers could find new employment climate czar John Kerry, in a Marie Antoinette ‘let them eat cake’ moment, retorted they can just make solar panels. He completely neglected the fact that renewable industries do not match the quantity of jobs or the wages of traditional oil and gas jobs. Recent reports on labor trends in the energy sector suggest that oil and gas extraction jobs make double that of solar and wind installation jobs. Does anyone really think this is a fair trade? Also, these “new jobs” are in different regions of the country. Are they all supposed to uproot their lives and move another part of the country?
Congress has a responsibility to weigh the impact that our energy policies will have on the environment. My own environmental concerns are a key reason why I support more energy infrastructure, including the Keystone XL pipeline. America’s GDP, and thus its energy demands, will continue to grow in the future. According to the Energy Information Agency’s February Short-Term Energy Outlook, despite the pandemic, the nation’s GDP is likely to grow by 3.8% in 2021 and by 4.2% in 2022. With vaccination rates improving, the economy will rebound, but only if it has the energy available to power it.
While it’s true that renewable energy will continue to grow, it will not be able to meet expected demand in the way that affordable and reliable traditional fuels can. In February, over five million Americans lost power in Texas and across parts of America during a 100-year winter weather event. The failure of fuel delivery, by both wind and natural gas, appears to be the major culprit. By building more comprehensive energy infrastructure that prioritizes reliability, America will avoid a potential energy shortage in the future.
That leaves the problem of where to source energy? Without pipelines, oil and gas must be shipped via railcar or truck. Besides being a safer mode of transportation, pipelines are better for the environment than alternative methods of shipping that contribute to air pollution by emitting much greater volumes of carbon dioxide. The efficiency of transporting fuel by pipeline adds up to significant improvements to our environment, ensuring Americans can live healthy and full lives.
America is making a comeback from the current public health emergency, and its rebound must be fueled by affordable, reliable energy. This cannot be accomplished without more comprehensive energy infrastructure. Both sides of the aisle agree that clean energy is a priority for our nation, but destroying an industry that provides millions of jobs is not the way ahead.
• U.S. Representative Michael C. Burgess, M.D., Texas Republican, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Rules Committee, and House Budget Committee. He is the most senior medical doctor in the House, representing Texas’ 26th Congressional District.