Joe Biden’s signature on the Inflation Reduction Act has set off a green energy gold rush as businesses seek to take advantage of the bill’s generous tax breaks and other provisions encouraging the research and development of renewable energy sources.
Meanwhile, as part of the new laws legislative negotiations, Senate Democrats ostensibly agreed to advance a permitting reform bill advocated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would speed up the permitting process for energy infrastructure projects of all kinds, including fossil fuel projects like pipelines.
Consequently, it would appear that we are making headway toward the building of crucial energy infrastructure. And it couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment, as recent international events serve as a timely reminder that the best approach to offer consumers both low prices and consistent service is to make use of a wide range of domestic energy sources.
But as we witness time and time again, regulatory and legal delays frequently clog the development of new initiatives and the completion of existing enterprises that try to bring those benefits. Due to unnecessary federal reviews, the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project had to delay its in-service date from 2018 to 2023. New on-land and offshore oil and gas exploration projects, along with natural gas pipeline construction, also need many years.
The legal challenges, which are often brought out by neighborhood eco-warriors, might drag on for a similar amount of time. For the past three years, state and federal courts in Michigan have argued over the Enbridge Line 5 project.
All of these setbacks increase the already high price tags of the projects involved. Sometimes, firms abandon their planned service areas altogether, leaving residents of those areas with significantly diminished energy options. Meanwhile, the need for energy continues to rise.
Wind farms and pipelines may seem very different, but they all have two things in common.
First, they have the support of business-focused organizations that recognize the potential for job and general economic development growth despite the extremely polarised climate. These state and federal policymakers have evaluated their value and energy reliability potential.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, their opposition and ultimate defeat is nearly invariably accomplished by local entities functioning outside of conventional political and policy channels. These organizations have plenty of resources, a solid structure, and widespread media coverage. They advocate fervently for their cause.
This second reason is crucial because it explains why businesses and developers are usually caught off guard by these regional dangers and take so long to devise effective countermeasures. They believe that “the people,” represented by elected officials, and the business community, represented by chambers of commerce, all back the plan. However, it turns out that there is a distinction between these government agencies and genuine people.
Usually, there aren’t any residents who are prepared to speak up and say, “Yes, build that pipeline; I want energy security for my family.”
Various corporations and, if applicable, their trade group have made this claim. A member of the local government may even be persuaded to publicly back your endeavor. Unfortunately, most of these initiatives do not get enough backing from the general public.
This needs to change if we’re going to take advantage of the IRA and the likelihood of federal permitting reform, which provide enormous potential for expanding our energy infrastructure. It is critical for businesses and industry groups to tailor their strategies for communicating with and engaging with their target audiences to the specifics of each local market. The future of energy production, according to numerous media publications (including the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post), will be decided at the municipal level.
The good news is that increasing domestic energy production is popularly viewed as a viable option for achieving cost savings, reducing emissions, and showing solidarity with friends and allies abroad. However, their opinions aren’t taken into account when the projects themselves are decided upon at the municipal level. Those activist groups that oppose the construction of any energy projects are filling the hole left by the industry’s lack of leadership in this area.
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Our next step is unmistakable. Building local support and bringing the voice of the energy consumer to the table is essential whether you are advocating for the expansion of advanced nuclear power, new oil and gas refineries and pipelines, solar and wind developments, or geothermal.
Greg Lemon leads US Energy NOW, a lobbying group that works to improve the country’s energy infrastructure. In his past life, he worked as Dan Brouillette’s speechwriter and opinion writer when Brouillette was Secretary of Energy.
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