Commentary: Boost economy with smart energy policies

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President-elect Trump has pledged to pursue an energy approach that would include "opening federal lands for oil and gas production, opening offshore areas, and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies."

After a polarizing election season, there's at least one issue that inspires bipartisan optimism: Americans are pretty happy about leading the world in oil and natural gas production.

Average gasoline prices are just over $2 per gallon, and because of low prices, households saved $1,337 in utility and other energy-related costs last year.

The stability U.S. oil and natural gas production has added to world markets is making a real difference in family budgets, and voters want to keep it going. An election night survey of voters found 80 percent support increased development of U.S. oil and natural gas resources, including 71 percent of Democrats, 94 percent of Republicans. and 76 percent of independents.

The findings point to bipartisan consensus behind President-elect Trump's pledge to pursue an energy approach that would include "opening federal lands for oil and gas production, opening offshore areas, and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies."

With the oil and natural gas industry facing no fewer than 145 regulatory actions, unnecessary restrictions are a real threat to sustained energy security. A smarter regulatory approach - which avoids duplication, takes current success into account, and unleashes technology innovation to drive economic activity - should be a top priority for the new administration and Congress.

Trump has also identified infrastructure as a primary focus, vowing in his first post-election remarks to "rebuild" U.S. infrastructure to make it "second to none."

Building new energy infrastructure alone - including pipelines, storage, processing, rail, and maritime development - could generate $1.1 trillion in private investment over 10 years and support one million shovel-ready jobs that don't rely on taxpayer funding.

On top of the immediate boost to the middle-class economy, building new energy infrastructure represents an investment in long-term energy security, ensuring reliable, affordable oil and natural gas keeps moving efficiently to homes and businesses.

How important are pipelines to energy cost savings? Take a look at the northeastern United States, which is home to seven of the top 10 most-expensive states for electricity costs.

States like Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts pay well above the national average in retail electricity prices despite being a short drive from one of the world's largest natural gas supplies. They simply don't have enough pipelines to connect the region's power plants to clean-burning natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale.

Building more pipelines could lower utility costs, reduce emissions, and create thousands of construction jobs.

Manufacturers - including producers of steel, chemicals, refined fuels, plastics, fertilizers and numerous other products - are also saving on power and materials costs thanks to America's energy resurgence.

U.S. industrial electricity costs are 30-50 percent lower than those of foreign competitors, according to a recent study from the Boston Consulting Group.

Overall American manufacturing costs are now 10 to 20 percent lower than those in Europe and could be 2 to 3 percent lower than China's by 2018, giving U.S. industries a crucial competitive edge. Building energy infrastructure means building on America's energy advantage.

Oil and natural gas pipelines transport energy at a 99.99 percent safety rate and play a critical role in environmental progress, delivering clean-burning natural gas that has driven carbon emissions from electricity generation to 25-year lows.

By hitting the ground running with smart, pro-energy policies, Congress and the Trump White House can build on America's status as a global energy superpower and advance major economic goals.

Marty Durbin is executive vice president and chief strategy officer for the American Petroleum Institute (www.api.org).

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