Even in scenarios designed to meet climate change targets, oil and natural gas will continue to be needed for decades, and the United States must both maintain existing energy infrastructure and build new infrastructure to adapt to changing needs, according to a report released Thursday by the National Petroleum Council (NPC).
The report, "America's Evolving Oil and Natural Gas Transportation Infrastructure," found that oil and natural gas will continue to be the largest energy sources through at least 2040. The benefits of recent unprecedented increases in U.S. oil and gas production "could not have come about without the significant expansion and adaptation of transportation infrastructure capacity," according to the report.
"Existing infrastructure has been modified and adapted to near-maximum capacity. To connect America's abundant energy supplies with domestic and global demand, significant public and private investment in new and existing pipelines, ports, rail facilities, and inland waterways will be essential...An interdependent infrastructure system of pipelines, truck, rail, and marine transport working together with storage ensures the delivery of reliable and affordable energy."
Standing in the way of plans to enhance energy infrastructure, NPC said, are "overlapping and duplicative regulatory requirements, inconsistencies across multiple federal and state agencies, and unnecessarily lengthy administrative procedures [that] have created a complex and unpredictable permitting process."
While "bipartisan actions by congress and the executive branch, including mechanisms to expedite the permitting process for large infrastructure projects represent positive steps...more improvements are necessary." NPC envisions a regulatory environment with early, effective and continuous stakeholder engagement and collaboration, and warns about permitting and construction projects being challenged by litigation by stakeholders concerned about climate change and the associated policy debate.
At NPC's annual meeting in Washington, DC, Thursday, Dan Brouillette, who was sworn in by President Trump as Department of Energy (DOE) secretary a day earlier, echoed the report's findings.
"We at DOE believe that reliable, uninterruptible delivery of our energy is perhaps our most critical challenge," Brouillette said. "Ensuring delivery means, first and foremost, that we protect existing infrastructure from threats ranging from cyberattacks to natural disasters...but protecting the infrastructure we have, while critical, is still not enough to ensure reliable energy delivery. In order to do that, we must build infrastructure that we absolutely need...
"But industry is being held back in certain cases from building enough infrastructure by what we feel are onerous rules and regulation. Recognizing this problem, President Trump through his executive orders on infrastructure took serious steps toward removing them. But federal regulations aren't the only problem. We must counter those who would do anything to stop the use of many important sources of energy. From outright banning energy sources to filibustering and blocking the construction of necessary infrastructure, certain bad actors are trying to slow job creators and decrease the benefits for consumers."
NPC's report "is a reminder that America's pipeline network is directly linked to a strong economy and a cleaner environment," according to Don Santa, CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
"The United States is the world's largest producer of natural gas, and this clean-burning fuel has been the single largest factor in the United States reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, as this report points out, too many infrastructure projects are being delayed or even blocked by unpredictable permitting processes -- projects that could deliver more clean-burning and affordable fuel to millions of households. If we are to maintain America's role as a global energy leader, we must continue to invest in energy infrastructure," Santa said.