President Donald Trump is opening the floodgates to America becoming an energy superpower. That’s the significance of two executive orders he recently signed to update federal procedures for building energy infrastructure across the nation, making America more prosperous and secure.
The orders will remove unnecessary federal barriers to the construction of oil and gas infrastructure, including pipelines, which have long been proven the safest way to transport these natural resources. The Environmental Protection Agency is ordered to consult with states to update regulations and to set reasonable timetables for permit approval.
Though the rule-making required by the order has barely begun, the president’s critics are spreading fear that the result will be states having less power to regulate energy, with objections sounding in “states’ rights.”
Let’s be honest: This is a strange argument for people who usually support massive expansions of federal power. But it also doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
The president instructed federal agencies to update and clarify existing regulations, eliminating confusion, duplication, red tape and delays. It might be true that the orders remove options for those who would seek to obstruct oil and gas production, but they do so Constitutionally.
And what state prerogatives are really in danger? Texas policy, enshrined in law, is that oil and gas production be maximized. But this is impossible without infrastructure. The U.S. has over 2.2 million miles of pipeline, yet the country’s top producer, Texas, is badly underserved. As it stands, the lack of pipeline capacity creates an unnecessary production bottleneck and a striking price differential with foreign crude.
More pipelines are critical for the country to maximize worldwide export. With greater infrastructure, the U.S. will become “the Saudi Arabia” of natural gas, and possibly crude, too. The days of paying trillions to send our loved ones to risk their lives securing a Middle East energy supply can be long behind us, provided we have the infrastructure to move our own resources to market.
By contrast, domestic energy production is safe. War is not required, and energy production is regulated by no fewer than 14 federal agencies. State agencies add even more regulation, led by the Texas Railroad Commission, which arguably has greater expertise and success overseeing safe energy production than any regulatory body on earth.
More infrastructure is a win for all Texans, which is why pipelines can be constructed with the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain is appropriate if a pipeline is a common carrier, meaning that the pipeline company permits others’ oil or gas to flow through the pipeline. In Texas, approximately 2 million royalty owners — along with University of Texas and Texas A&M — benefit from having their oil and gas moved through pipelines to market. Another estimated 8 million royalty owners would like to do the same, but there are no pipelines in their area. Billions of dollars in economic activity is stifled because of this solvable problem.
The president is doing his part to solve it.
Whether or not you like the executive orders, you are a beneficiary.