Energy & Environment at The Hill

House Energy and Commerce Hearing Highlights Critical Need to Invest in America’s Infrastructure

Last week’s House Energy and Commerce hearing on infrastructure development explored opportunities to improve America’s economic competitiveness through infrastructure. This could begin a unique opportunity to hear voices from across the political spectrum on critical policy initiatives that will guide America’s future role as an energy producing and exporting nation.

Congress must consider throughout the testimony whether existing legislation benefits both local communities and national interests. A dramatic energy revolution driven by market forces is underway in the United States. Part of this revolution is an investment in energy production, transportation, and processing. By doing so, we have reduced the leverage of the foreign governments and entities whose predatory energy market practices hurt the geopolitical position of the United States, the competitiveness of the US economy, and the pocketbook of the American consumer.

{mosads}But just as freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, our energy independence must also be secured for the future generations. To sustain the growth experienced in the past decade, and to sustain our gains toward increased energy independence, America must continue to invest in its infrastructure – including modern oil and gas pipelines and export facilities.

As U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, I saw the strategic importance of safe, reliable, and secure energy infrastructure constructed across national boundaries in the Caspian region. Oil and gas are commodities that have immense power to influence global politics as well as benefit producing nations and their citizens. So, the United States, must invest in modern technologies that securely, reliably, and in an environmentally conscious manner, transport these resources to domestic and international consumers.

Regulatory oversight of such projects is important, and the United States maintains a strong tradition of enforcing the rule of law. We also have a tradition of ensuring that the voices of local communities affected by such projects are heard. Government at all levels has a responsibility to ensure the rule of law is followed to the letter of the law.

The recent Dakota Access Pipeline protests created an atmosphere of insecurity around an important energy infrastructure project. The interests of local communities and the national interest were hijacked by groups whose political objectives included forcing a no-carbon energy future on the American people. There are legitimate ways and venues for having that debate about America’s energy future. Protests such as occurred in connection with the Dakota Access Pipeline, must not determine public policy on this important question. Private investment is critical for the production and distribution of U.S. energy resources. The integrity our legal and regulatory structure is critical to ensuring this investment. That’s why we must hold the Executive accountable for acting within the law as defined and interpreted by the Courts. This ensures systemic harmony, between regulators and government oversight and the legal process that is necessary for the physical construction of vital energy infrastructure.

By doing so, the United States can remain the standard bearer for responsible, sustainable, and safe energy infrastructure development driven by market forces – a model of democracy and due process in action for energy producing nations throughout the world.

Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich is Co-Director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy and an Adjunct Professor for Geopolitics of Energy Security at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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