Revamping natural gas policy will make America build again
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There are 2.7 million miles of paved roads in our country, and many Americans can attest to the substandard state of our streets, highways and bridges. This public infrastructure relies on local and federal funding for its upkeep. America’s infrastructure has earned persistent D averages since 1998, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

There is an equal amount of natural gas pipelines — approximately 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines that move natural gas from the fields where it is produced to the more than two million miles of distribution pipelines that deliver natural gas for heating and cooling, water heating, cooking and drying clothes. Unlike our nation’s highways, these pipelines are largely owned and operated by private companies.

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You may not notice this network of pipes tucked beneath our streets, and we are glad about that. There is nothing more important to natural gas utilities than the safety of the customers we serve and the communities in which we live and work. We are constantly enhancing the safety of our system by upgrading pipes that may no longer be fit for service and replacing them with ones made from more modern materials, spending $22 billion annually in the process.

 

We also remain vigilant about the emerging threats to our security and maintain a commitment to cybersecurity alongside our long-standing commitment to physical security. Safety is a core value at every one of our more than 200 member companies and it shows. The U.S. Department of Transportation says that natural gas pipelines are the safest method of transporting energy in the nation.

But there are plenty of Americans who are all too aware of our pipeline network because it does not reach their neighborhood. Our nation’s abundance of natural gas has kept prices affordable and stable for years, and we expect that to continue for decades into the future. Households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and drying clothes save nearly $900 each year.

More homes and businesses use natural gas today than ever before, and the numbers continue to increase because people want access to those benefits. Yet many areas and customers are unserved or underserved by natural gas infrastructure. Thirty-nine states have adopted or considered innovative proposals to expand the pipeline network so that more citizens and businesses can access this domestic fuel source. 

This week is Infrastructure Week, a time of education and advocacy to encourage policymakers to invest in the projects, technologies and policies necessary to ensure America is competitive, prosperous and safe. American businesses, workers, elected leaders and everyday citizens have joined together in this effort because upgrading our infrastructure improves the quality of life for millions of Americans and makes our economy prosper.

Businesses operate more efficiently when the cost of energy remains low and consistent, helping boost local economies across the nation. Extending our natural gas infrastructure is a key link in helping achieve that goal. Clean natural gas has led to $76 billion in savings for American businesses since 2009. If you include the lower cost of goods from more affordable fuel, low-priced natural gas put $1,337 back in the pocket of the average American family.

In the years since we discovered an efficient and economical way to extract energy from shale deposits, American companies have been bringing jobs that were previously overseas back to our shores, reviving industries such as steel and chemical manufacturing. While many businesses have suffered the effects of globalization and automation, industries that rely on natural gas either as a feedstock or to fuel their factories have been a bright spot in our economy.

Greater access to natural gas can help move our communities and our nation forward. Because America’s natural gas infrastructure is privately owned and operated, we are not asking for government funding to meet the market’s demand.

Instead, we consistently advocate for reforms to policies developed during a time of perceived scarcity. To deliver more natural gas to more customers throughout the country, we encourage modernization of federal permitting policies. To reach that end, America’s natural gas utilities are leading a fact-based dialogue about our energy choices that reflects today’s reality.

With natural gas as a foundation fuel, our nation will continue to have a clean and secure future. All Americans stand to gain if we make investments and update our policies to realize the full potential of a natural gas-fueled future. We want to see more Americans share in our nation’s prosperity.

 

Dave McCurdy (@aga_naturalgas) is president and CEO of the American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. From 1981 to 1995, he represented the Fourth Congressional District of Oklahoma in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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