Coherent energy policy needed for coming growth

Clarion LedgerThe Clarion-Ledger | February 10, 2017 | Patrick Sullivan

Today’s 24-hour news cycle keeps people in fits over the daily reasons the sky is falling. Stories on trivial matters, while often entertaining, distract from the important issues, mainly the economy. Much needs doing at the federal level, and time and cooperation will be required. Big ships don’t turn on a dime.

Of all the many issues to deal with, perhaps the big ones are getting federal spending under control to whittle down the enormous deficit, finding a far more sensible way to regulate business of all types and sizes, and unleashing the U.S.’s strongest competitive advantage – it’s abundance of energy.

In 2014, we hosted the designated U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry at the Governor’s Energy Summit. In his keynote address, then-Texas Governor Perry said, “It’s not that we need a new energy policy, it’s that we need an energy policy, period.” He’s right. Far too long, through multiple administrations, America’s energy policy has been incoherent.

The policy should be clear, spurring technology development so we can continue to use energy smarter and also encouraging more energy production which will bring more jobs and wealth in time. Why would we not allow a company to spend a billion dollars exploring 100 miles offshore or $5 billion for a pipeline to transport new energy supplies into the U.S.? We will need the energy. Building pipelines has been common practice for decades now, and America’s elaborate energy infrastructure network is a huge competitive advantage. Once again, we will need the energy.

Even in the midst of low-price, over-supplied markets, we must appreciate the energy challenge ahead. World energy demand is expected to increase 30-40 percent by 2040. For perspective, this is the equivalent of adding two United States-sized energy consumers to the globe in twenty years.

Roughly, on top of what the world already consumes, that’s adding a combination like the following: 14.3 billion barrels of oil/year for fuel, 200 new nuclear reactors, 524 new coal power plants, 850 new natural gas power plants, 76 new Hoover-sized Dams, 346,000 acres in solar facilities, 8.9 million acres under wind turbines, an incomprehensible 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas used annually in heating and manufacturing, and the network of ports, rails, pipelines and wires to transport it.

The scale is staggering, making anti-energy movements like “Keep It in the Ground” look utterly absurd. While most of the demand growth will take place outside of the U.S., our country sits on more combined energy reserves than any other country. As Governor Perry told our audience in 2014, “Our arsenal of energy must be part of a national security strategy to stop aggression wherever it threatens our interests…We can make a huge impact across this world, creating jobs and turning the American economy loose to be the most powerful economic power the world has ever seen.”

Read full op-ed here.

Patrick Sullivan is the president of the Mississippi Energy Institute.

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