When Anti-Energy Activism Becomes Economically and Environmentally Disastrous

America’s energy industry is in many ways the lifeblood of the country. Its expansion over the past decade has created millions of jobs, reduced our dependence on cartelized foreign suppliers, and contributed to local, state, and national prosperity. Now, anti-energy activists, having adopted a myopic vision of environmentalism which incorrectly conflates new infrastructure construction with environmental degradation, are doing all that they can to sabotage the industry.

In an op-ed recently published in the National Review, economist and industry expert Benjamin Zycher explains why discouraging investments in energy infrastructure reduces environmental security at great cost to the economy.

No amount of activism will end America’s need for affordable and accessible energy. Knowing this, radical environmentalists have targeted the infrastructure that keeps the country powered, using baseless litigation to stall or prevent new construction in hopes of reducing the economic viability of the energy industry as a whole. Recent examples of resistance include litigation targeted at halting the operation of Dakota Access as well as the construction of Keystone XL and Permian Highway. Besides jeopardizing the livelihoods of the tens of millions of Americans who are employed in the energy sector or rely on their products, these lawsuits ultimately threaten environmental sanctity across the country. As Zycher writes:

“New energy-infrastructure investment by definition replaces older facilities and provides alternatives that are cleaner, environmentally safer, and less dangerous for workers and communities. The shutdown of older infrastructure without replacement incontrovertibly leads to a reduction in the stock of productive capital, a reduction in the supply of energy and the economic value of the natural-resource base, and less aggregate wealth.”

Anti-energy activists frequently argue that all infrastructure connected to energy production or transportation is inherently bad for the environment, but they willfully ignore the stringency of modern permitting processes. Regulatory agencies at both the state and federal level conduct hundreds of inspections before projects are approved, and stakeholders have every reason to encourage a comprehensive review process. The desire to prevent accidents is precisely why pipelines, which are measurably safer than rail and truck transport, are being constructed in the first place.

Instead of attempting to disrupt the energy industry through self-defeating litigation, environmental activists should encourage the well-regulated modernization of infrastructure for its economic and environmental benefits. Zycher concludes:

“A sharp reduction in investment in energy infrastructure would make the economy poorer, and in the long run poorer is dirtier…A rigorous and continuing inspection regime is vastly more consistent with environmental protection than opposition through litigation. And both regulators and private-sector operators have powerful incentives to pursue safety and benign environmental outcomes.”

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