Energy wins

With zero precincts reporting, we can confidently project American energy is a landslide winner in the 2014 midterm elections.

In many races, both Republican and Democratic candidates have gone out of their way this year to embrace pro-energy policies – to the point that it’s been almost impossible to tell who’s wearing red or blue on the campaign trail.

“When I disagree with the president, I stand up to him. Whether it is on oil or support for the Keystone XL pipeline.” That’s Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerDems slam Yahoo CEO over delay in acknowledging hack Overnight Cybersecurity: Cyber questions for the debate | Dem wants Yahoo hack probe Dem senator urges SEC to investigate Yahoo MORE.  In North Carolina’s Senate race, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan made a point of saying “I disagree with the president. I think we need to build the Keystone pipeline.” That’s one thing she has in common with her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, who states, “I strongly support the construction of the Keystone pipeline and favor expanding offshore drilling to make our nation less dependent on foreign oil.

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Democrats distancing themselves from the president has been a theme of this election cycle, but candidates’ efforts to disavow the Obama administration’s energy record in favor of embracing  the American energy revolution is about more than approval ratings. It’s an acknowledgment that energy means jobs, economic growth and security -- priorities consistently ranked as most important by American voters of all political persuasions.

Large majorities of American voters increasingly recognize the role of smart energy policy in addressing their most pressing concerns.  Recent polling shows that 90 percent agree that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more U.S. jobs, while 79 percent say domestic energy could help lower energy costs for consumers. Poll after poll demonstrates strong support for the Keystone XL pipeline – strong enough to influence choices in the ballot booth; 68 percent of respondents in an April survey from Harris Poll said they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports approving Keystone XL, including 60 percent of Democrats.

Most candidates have gotten the message on energy issues and Keystone XL, specifically.  Just ask Tom Steyer. Steyer’s stated mission for this election cycle was to elect anti-fossil fuel and anti-Keystone candidates. Such candidates proved so hard to find that fundraising groups run by Steyer and other climate activists donated $2.4 million to reelect Keystone supporter Hagan and $1.9 million to reelect Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (D-Alaska), who is a vocal proponent of drilling in ANWR and the Arctic Ocean.

Alaska and North Carolina, and many other states with contested races, will be sending a pro-energy senator to Washington, regardless of which party wins. 

That’s great news for a nation in which economic recovery has been lackluster. If the new Congress is serious about living up to their energy campaign promises, they should waste no time approving the Keystone XL pipeline.  Obama’s non-decision on Keystone actually is a decision – a decision to deny a shovel-ready project that would create more than 42,000 jobs putting over $2 billion in workers’ pockets during the two-year construction phase.  Six years of exhaustive study and five positive environmental assessments from the State Department are enough. With Keystone, we’re 10 years and a few smart policy choices away from the ability to supply 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs from stable sources right here in North America. Another key part of achieving that energy security milestone is greater access.  Production is down on federal lands -- 6 percent for crude oil and 28 percent for natural gas – and off limits entirely in 87 percent of federal offshore acreage. By fixing that, Congress could create 1 million American jobs and generate $127 billion in government revenue.

It’s also past time to lift the 70s-era ban on crude exports, which makes no sense for a nation on track to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer in 2015. Lifting the obsolete ban could add up to 300,000 jobs to the economy and, according to a new Brookings Institute study, cut gas prices by 7 cents to 12 cents per gallon. Likewise, speeding up the pace of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports could generate 452,000 jobs while helping our Eastern European allies break their dependence on Russian supplies. As the world’s leading natural gas producer, the economic and geopolitical benefits of winning the global LNG export race are ours to lose.

It may take weeks and a few run-off elections to determine control of Congress. But the American people have already given the House and Senate a clear mandate:  create jobs, boost the economy and advance America’s energy security through commonsense energy policies.

Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S. trade association for the oil and natural gas industries.