Big On The Boom: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Looks Like A Total Business Score

Craig Stevens Former Advisor to Energy Secretary Bodman
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By removing unnecessary obstacles to new energy development, the Trump administration has helped unleash a domestic energy boom. U.S. energy production is growing so quickly that the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts the U.S. will reach record-setting levels of oil and natural gas production this year. Building on this success would lead to still more energy-fueled economic growth.

Although energy infrastructure does not appear in early leaked versions of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, the President has demonstrated a keen understanding of the connection between domestic energy production and economic growth. His willingness to facilitate energy development in other areas has led directly to a revitalized U.S. energy sector that is already changing global energy markets.

With his executive orders on offshore drilling, pipeline permitting processes, and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, the President has removed obstacles that were holding back U.S. economic growth. Incorporating this approach into the White House’s infrastructure plan would make the plan even stronger and would deliver a bigger payoff for the American people. 

The infrastructure plan focuses on federal spending as a financial investment. The idea is to offer financial incentives that would encourage other parties to make large infrastructure investments. But, there is a way to generate a bigger bang for no additional bucks.

Were the administration to add a section focused on reducing regulatory burdens that discourage the development of domestic energy infrastructure, the plan would have an even larger impact. As the administration has already shown, eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles to the development of energy infrastructure triggers private investment that has a positive effect on the overall economy.

In January 2017, the President issued an executive order authorizing the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline to bring domestic energy from the Bakken shale reserve in North Dakota to distribution points in Illinois. The Obama administration had held up the pipeline’s completion despite its having passed every legal and environmental review.

Simply ending the administrative delay of this one project had a transformative effect on North Dakota’s economy. After the Dakota Access Pipeline opened, North Dakota experienced its largest ever month-over-month increase in oil production. Today, the state’s unemployment rate is extremely low, its economy is booming, and its tax revenue is rising.

More pipeline construction will fuel more economic growth – not just in drilling communities, but all over the country. Providing more domestic oil and gas for U.S. consumers and businesses will lower energy costs, making American businesses more competitive and American households more financially stable.

All of this can be done without a dime of investment from Washington. The key to unlocking this growth is simple: the administration would have to do nothing more than cut out needless bureaucratic delays in the review and permitting processes for energy infrastructure.

In the United States, it can take around a decade for a proposed project to obtain all the necessary approvals and permits. In Australia and Canada, mining projects are approved in 18-24 months, but in the United States that process can take between 7-10 years, according to the National Mining Association

American energy projects can be sped up without changing a single environmental law. Just directing the relevant federal departments and agencies to complete their reviews more quickly would do wonders. It would encourage more private-sector investment in necessary infrastructure because the return on those investments could be realized sooner.

More investment in domestic energy projects would lead to more public-sector investment in the kind of infrastructure the administration’s plan seeks to encourage. As we’ve seen in North Dakota, energy development generates more tax revenue for state and local governments. A booming energy sector provides revenue that government can then invest in upgrades to roads, bridges, airports and other projects. 

The Trump administration knows that streamlining regulatory reviews for energy infrastructure works to stimulate economic growth and make American industry more competitive. It needs to make this a top priority of 2018 and include it in the infrastructure plan. A failure to do so will only hold back American economic growth.

Craig Stevens is the spokesman for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting key infrastructure investments. Follow the Coalition on Twitter @GAINNowAmerica.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.