Former KXL worker Writing in North Dakota: Recognize the Value of Pipeliners

Suzanne Walker, a pipeline welder affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798, was published in North Dakota’s InForum and Minot Daily News, calling on the Biden administration to support the hard working women and men in the energy industry.  She argues  President Biden has severely undervalued the importance of union workers  in the oil and gas industry by undermining America’s prosperous fossil fuels sector to advance his green agenda. Pipeliners like Ms. Walker are critical to deploying energy infrastructure and ensuring that Americans have affordable and reliable energy.

Throughout the piece, Walker highlights her impressive career in the energy industry. Beginning her career as a pipeline welder in 2008, Suzanne Walker worked the Keystone XL pipeline that stretched from Grafton, ND to Fargo, ND. She notes, “I can personally attest to the jobs Keystone created and its economic benefits to communities throughout the state. The cancellation resulted in hundreds of layoffs, including my own.” 

No matter what sector of the economy pipeline workers participate in, the administration and local leaders should be supporting them. One instance in which President Biden could show his support for pipeline workers is to support the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been an immensely critical piece of infrastructure for our domestic energy supply. The construction of the pipeline created 12,000 jobs, providing robust wages and benefits. Additionally, the completion and operation has significantly aided local economies through millions in property taxes, which fund schools, roads, and local emergency services.

While pipeline workers are often overlooked, that does not mean they are not integral to the American economy and way of life. Without them, the U.S. would not have had the ability to fight the volatile energy prices that characterized the past seven months. The GAIN Coalition is extremely appreciative of Suzanne Walker and all other pipeliners’ hard work in securing our energy needs.

GAIN Announces New Video Series Highlighting Energy Issues

We are excited to announce the release of our first video in a new series focusing on the relevant issues in the U.S. energy sector. September’s video features Neal Crabtree, a pipeline worker affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798. With more than twenty-five years of experience, Neal is an expert in pipeline construction.

Neal offers his unique perspective on the energy industry’s contributions to the American economy. In the video, Neal describes the “rewarding” experience of working in the industry because he gets to “see a lot of places other people never get to see”. Additionally, he highlights the importance of our national pipeline network which keeps energy affordable and reliable

The following statement can be attributed to me, Craig Stevens, Spokesman for the GAIN Coalition:

“GAIN’s new video series offers a new and exciting way of presenting the people, places, and information integral to America’s energy development and buildout. Neal’s background is an American story of what the pipeline industry means to him, and also the thousands of other men and women who work to make the United States more energy secure and prosperous. It’s a privilege to be able to share Neal’s perspective and we look forward to bringing you more personal stories as part of this series.”

Link to video: https://youtu.be/ZZv5lWaBor0.

Link to Neal’s most recent Op-Ed in Fox Business.

‘Coming to an End.’ Gasoline Prices Spike Following 98 Days of Declines

The average cost for a gallon of gas in the U.S. rose last week, marking the first time prices have increased in 3 ½ months. This occurrence ends an impressive 98-day streak of declining gas prices, the second-longest such streak on record going back to 2005, according to AAA.com After hitting a record-setting high on June 14th and $5.016 per gallon, prices gradually receded before leveling off at $3.67 on September 20th, 

While the reprieve customers at the pump experienced over the summer months is significant, it is still much higher than it was just last year. Despite the significant short-term reduction, gas prices are still nearly 50 cents more expensive than they were just one year ago. Now, according to CNN, the “historic streak of falling US gas prices is over.” That’s because gas prices are trending upwards, reaching $3.72 cents per gallon, a small increase but a warning sign that prices may move steadily higher above $4 per gallon in the weeks ahead. 

AAA notes there are multiple factors playing into the rise in consumer fuel costs, particularly due to rising petroleum prices, which account for roughly 50 percent of the input cost for gasoline. Specifically, the organization blames rising prices on “war, COVID, economic recession, and hurricane season. All this uncertainty could push oil prices higher, likely resulting in slightly higher pump prices.”

Certainly these factors have contributed to the record highs consumers paid at the pump in June, but there are more contributing causes that AAA doesn’t mention. The Biden administration has been incredibly hostile to the use of fossil fuels and has implemented harmful regulations, shuttered the Keystone XL pipeline, raised taxes, and halted drilling of oil and natural gas on federal lands. According to data provided by the Energy Information Administration, domestic crude oil production is down sharply compared to years 2019 and 2020, a time when many considered the U.S. to be energy independent. These actions have all directly played a role in the concerning energy crisis facing the country. 

Now, the federal government is winding down the release schedule of crude oil reserves, a move implemented in April by President Biden as a means to put downward pressure on fuel costs. The release of nearly 1 million barrels of oil per day is about to end, which will significantly reduce the amount of oil available on the marketplace. To prepare for this upcoming reality, refiners are expecting a sharp drop in the supply of petroleum on the market to make gasoline, thereby fueling a rise in prices.

The Biden administration described the most SPR sale as a bridge to get supply and demand in balance as domestic producers increase output. Despite the political rhetoric coming from the White House, production has not crept up to meet the broad demand for oil. Unless President Biden takes the handcuffs off the domestic fossil fuel industry, it is unlikely prices will drop below the new “low” of $3.67 per gallon.

Tackling Inflation Requires Clarity on Energy

In an op-ed for RealClearEnergy, Brigham McCown, the former Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and a strategic advisor to the GAIN Coalition, penned an op-ed examining how economic and security challenges  have extended to the energy sector. As energy production remains below pre-pandemic levels, the price of natural gas has doubled since the beginning of the year, due in large part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

McCown advocates for  an all-of-the-above approach  to meet demand rather than focusing on one aspect of the energy sector. In order to address inflation and reduce geopolitical risk caused by Russia’s weaponization of energy in Europe, the U.S. must invest in a mix of energy that best fits America’s needs. 

The high prices that have characterized the last eight months directly reflect the insufficient supply of oil and gas. To increase production of domestic resources, excessive permitting and approval processes must be addressed by legislation or executive orders, McCown argues. “Meaningful change can occur almost overnight by ordering executive branch agencies to act with a sense of urgency as the current dilatory pace is choking the country’s efficiency and productivity,” he says.

For example, Senator Manchin has demanded congress address environmental permitting reform in this fall as a condition for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act. Senator Manchin understands that his party is solely focused on advancing renewables at the behest of fossil fuels that could alleviate volatile domestic prices. According to a summary released by his office, Machin’s proposed reforms streamlines approval processes for renewable and fossil fuel projects, designate a list of 25 high-priority projects to expedite construction, and create timelines for NEPA reviews.

McCown notes permitting reform is “one area where consumers and our overseas alias expect action from Congress and the administration.” While Democratic leaders have committed to put this reform to a vote, its future hangs in the balance. “Let’s hope they deliver, or we could all be in for a frigid and expensive winter,” he concludes.

New EIA Data Indicates U.S. Oil Reserves Hit Dangerously Low Level

Data released from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates the amount of crude oil in the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) has dropped to historically-low levels. According to EIA’s accounting, the level of crude in reserves has dropped to 427 million barrels, through September 16th. The U.S. backup supply of crude oil has not been so dangerously depleted since 1984. This concerning reality could hamstring the ability to respond to national emergencies and mitigate the impact of disruptions in supplies of petroleum products from natural disasters or embargoes. 

Despite the rationale for maintaining a strong reserve of oil, President Biden has been tapping into the reserves for purely political purposes. In March, feeling heat from skyrocketing gasoline prices following Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine and a series of misguided energy policies, President Biden announced a six-month plan to release an average of 1 million barrels of oil per day from the SPR. 

The SPR should not be viewed as a political gimmick as it was created as an emergency stockpile in the event of a shock to the oil market. The release of oil from the SPR threatens national security. For example, if Iran decides the time is right to pursue a show of force in the Middle East and attack Saudi Arabia, we could face a worldwide disruption of supply with depleted reserves of crude oil in the SPR. 

The U.S. is also in the thick of hurricane season, which could possibly stifle oil production along the gulf coast and supply trains in the Northeast. Similarly, if a Category 5 hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico and shuts down oil production for weeks, as with Hurricane Katrina, the SPR may not be able to respond to the emergency. As explained in a recent op-ed by Mark Robeck, former deputy general counsel for energy policy with the U.S. Department of Energy, “Congress imposed a predicate circumstance of a “severe energy supply disruption” for the president and Secretary of Energy to authorize the sale of crude oil from the SPR, and such a disruption simply does not exist right now.”

While the price of oil has declined precipitously since its record high, due in part to the oil reserve drawdowns, it is likely prices will reverse once these sales end in October. Ironically, the Biden administration, according to Bloomberg, is reportedly looking to refill the SPR in the coming months. This scenario will fuel demand for oil and could actually raise the cost of crude and the cost of gasoline that consumers will pay at the pump. 

The GAIN Coalition has advocated for the expansion of American energy production of all types. Producing more energy and supporting the completion of energy infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and transmission lines, will have more long-term benefit to the country than using the SPR as a political tool.

American Energy Security needs Commitments from D.C.

Major General James ‘Spider’ Marks (ret.), and GAIN Strategic Advisor, authored an op-ed for The Defense Post urging Washington to heed the warning signs illustrated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and establish forward-looking energy policies that can insulate Americans from future volatile price swings. While the war has upended the global supply of oil and natural gas, it has also provided an opportunity for the U.S. to be a “stabilizing force in the global energy market,” Marks writes. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has not capitalized on this reality and instead has dragged its feet on the advancement of domestic oil and gas development.

Putin has shown that depending on foreign actors for energy supply is a misguided national security policy that can have detrimental effects. Unfortunately, many of our European allies relied upon Russia for their energy needs, and the invasion “exposed serious supply vulnerabilities,” Marks says. Putin has been able to wield energy as a weapon, as Russia spent decades building pipelines and infrastructure to connect Europe—and even the U.S.—to Russian resources. 

In order to avoid further volatile prices, the Biden Administration and lawmakers in Washington must embrace policies that “foster greater investment in US oil and gas development,” writes Marks. Encouraging more investment in those domestic sectors will also strengthen our national security, as to avoid a future scenario similar to what Russia has so aptly demonstrated. However, instead of this investment, the Biden Administration halted off-shore oil lease sales, only reinstating a few once it was required by the legislation in the ‘Inflation Reduction Act.’

In addition to investments in production, domestic infrastructure projects must also be supported. A prime example of this is the Dakota Access Pipeline, a key component in our energy security arsenal that safely transports nearly 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The U.S. needs a robust pipeline infrastructure network to get energy from where it is produced to where it can be utilized, and meet demand. 

Marks argues the administration should support American energy production by removing the restraints that hamstring it, encouraging more investment, and avoiding legislative policies that hurt companies’ ability to make capital investments. In addition to arguing for sound federal policies, he warns some proposals in Washington, such as a windfall profits tax, would harm, not help, the existing energy crisis.  He notes such a policy,“could actually lower domestic production,” just as a similar measure did in the 1980s.

Putin has forced an energy reckoning. It’s time the U.S. seize the opportunity, and commit to long-term energy solutions. Marks concludes his piece by writing “President Biden should put the administration’s support behind US energy companies and their workers in order to bring affordable and reliable energy to Americans across the country,” Let’s hope federal policymakers listen accordingly. 

Electricity Prices Surging as Natural Gas Costs Rise, New Data Shows.

Americans need to brace for an expensive winter. While the Biden administration celebrates a national gas average that has fallen from its summer peak of $5 to roughly $3.67, households across the country are confronting a new concerning reality: skyrocketing electricity bills. That’s the latest warning coming from the Wall Street Journal and the Energy Information Administration, which anticipates the residential price of electricity will average 14.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2022, up 7.5 percent from 2021.  Americans across the country are already experiencing skyrocketing electricity costs with the consumer-price index for electricity in August a whopping 15.8 percent higher in August than it was just one year ago. That is the biggest twelve month increase since 1981, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though the price at the pump has fallen, natural gas prices have been exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. European nations have worked to reduce their dependence on Russian energy sources, and in turn, Russia has drastically cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The U.S. has supplemented the void left behind by the absence of Russian energy with 60% of its LNG exports going to Europe last month. This is reducing the cost of gas in Europe from potential catastrophic extremes, but the necessity of these exports points to the larger issue of global natural gas supplies. 

The existing geopolitical reality has placed significant pressure on the supply of natural gas, which according to the Wall Street Journal, “prices have more than doubled this year because of a global supply shortage made worse by the war in Ukraine, and they are expected to remain elevated for months as fuel is needed to light and heat homes during the winter. The supply crunch has made it substantially more expensive for utilities to purchase or produce power, and those costs are being passed on to customers.” Beyond higher costs for electricity, elevated energy costs will also make it more expensive for consumers to purchase home heat heating oil this winter. 

Domestic infrastructure limitations are the largest threat to the U.S. natural gas industry. Pipeline constraints mean that natural gas producers have not been able to increase production, hampering the ability for those companies to get the energy to market. The European energy situation is dire, but the U.S. is helping to facilitate relief. However, the situation at home is far from optimistic. New England has been hit particularly hard. The region relies upon imports more heavily than other areas in the U.S. due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure and renewable projects that are not yet operational. 

As the country deals with the highest inflation levels in forty years, higher energy costs will continue to fuel price increases. Thankfully, the U.S. has the ability to lower domestic prices through expansion of its own resources. For example, the Marcellus Shale is one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, and the Appalachian Basin is the third largest natural gas producing region in the world. Development of the Marcellus Shale has been encouraging over the last decade, but must be leveraged over the coming years to provide the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with more natural gas. Until then, consumers will be in for a costly winter.

Brigham McCown on The Jim Bohannon Show

Brigham McCown, GAIN member and former Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), appeared on The Jim Bohannon Show to discuss the ongoing energy crisis in Europe and how it is affecting oil and gas markets here in the United States. McCown notes the polarization of energy discussions, observing that there are “two different camps promoting either all fossil fuels or all renewables, but frankly, the answer is both.” As a means to ensure American energy independence and price stability, he  recommends an “all-of-the-above energy approach,” not just a reliance on one path forward. 

The consequences of a narrow focus are clear. Rather than encourage private sector businesses to deploy their capital to increase production of both fossil fuels and renewable energy, the Biden administration has fostered an inhospitable environment for oil and gas companies. McCown notes the unfortunate reality of a “dearth of investment” that followed President Biden’s election after promising to end the fossil fuel industry. Not even three years ago, the U.S. was the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, lowering gas prices and dependency on foreign nations. However, as McCown continues, “the last few years we’ve been backsliding,” and “producing less than we did years ago.” The American consumer is now paying for this divestment at the pump, as we are producing about 1.5 million fewer barrels per day today than we were pre-COVID. 

McCown discusses policy similarities between the U.S. and Europe. “Right now we have an administration that has doubled down on green policy,” he says, when we need it all. The “euphoria with being green at the expense of full policy solutions,” that has characterized European energy policy has crept into American politics. 

McCown offers a solution: invest and support an all-the-above energy agenda. He says, “if we’re not careful, we are going to end up in the exact same position Europe is in today because they did the same thing.” The U.S. must heed the warning signs from our allies across the pond. 

We have the domestic resources to remain energy independent and strengthen our security. Instead of solely promoting renewables, an all-of-the-above approach is the most rational path forward to avoid an increase in energy costs. Encouraging more domestic energy infrastructure is the right place for the administration to start, as it signals to both the fossil fuel and renewable industries that they have the government’s support.

Listen to more of Brigham McCown’s interview with Jim Bohannon here: The Jim Bohannon Show.

New Analysis Highlights Concerningly Low Oil Lease Numbers Under President Biden

Amidst the global energy crisis, American consumers have experienced a slight reprieve in recent months, with the price of oil, natural gas, gas prices, and diesel fuel retreating from their record highs earlier this year. The Biden administration touts this trend as an achievement, but had been deflecting the blame for the sky-high prices this summer. Certainly, the decline of energy prices is welcome news, but it is imperative that the federal government not get complacent in thinking stangent, but still elevated, energy costs will remain for the long-term. To ensure long-term price stability, President Biden must reverse course on one major policy misstep of his presidency thus far: a lack of approved leases for offshore and onshore drilling on federal lands.

Newly analyzed data from the Wall Street Journal indicates the full extent of the issue. The Biden administration has leased fewer acres for oil-and-gas drilling offshore and on federal land than any other time dating back to the end of World War II, according to their analysis. Over President Biden’s 19 months in office, the Interior Department leased 126,228 acres for drilling. No other president since Richard Nixon has leased fewer than 4.4 million acres 19 months into their first term. This reality means the United States is not fully embracing domestic energy production, and causing us to rely on other nations for energy, a scenario which is not a long term solution towards reaching energy independence. U.S. leaders must recognize that building out domestic energy production and energy infrastructure is critical to fighting volatile energy prices.

Achieving energy independence means maximizing offshore drilling. The Gulf of Mexico federal offshore oil production, for example, accounts for 15 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and federal offshore natural gas production in the Gulf accounts for five percent of total U.S. dry production, according to the Energy Information Administration. The resources just off the coast present a major opportunity for the United States, and one that we should take advantage of without delay.

The Inflation Reduction Act is a mixed bag of potential solutions and definite roadblocks. The IRA would raise taxes on crude oil and imported petroleum, and impose a new fee on energy producers, pipelines, and job creators. These taxes will facilitate, not alleviate, the domestic energy crisis. At the same time, the IRA requires that three lease sales—sales 257, 258, 259, and 261—must be held by their specified date. Although it is encouraging to see this included, the sales should not have been halted in the first place. Essentially, the Administration is taking credit for reinstating sales they have purposefully delayed. The GAIN Coalition implores President Biden’s Interior Department to maximize our country’s resources and expand our energy infrastructure further.

‘Solidify our pipeline network’ Writes Pipeline Worker in Fox Business Op-Ed

Neal Crabtree, a pipeline worker affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798, recently penned an Op-Ed in Fox Business providing his unique perspective on the ongoing energy crisis. As a pipeline worker with more than twenty-five years of experience, Crabtree is an expert in the intricate process of safely building pipeline infrastructure, enabling the safe transportation of energy from where it is produced, to where it’s needed. Without pipelines, the U.S. would not be able to efficiently transport crude oil and natural gas used to power homes, businesses and for other important purposes. Even in the midst of one of the worst energy crises our country has experienced, the pipeline industry is still working to ensure affordable access to energy.

Crabtree believes one way to alleviate the energy crisis is for President Biden to reconsider his misguided decision on Keystone XL, which would have transported nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day. Unfortunately, Crabtree lost his job when the Keystone XL Pipeline was canceled by the Biden Administration on the President’s first day in office. The permit issued by the Trump Administration, Crabtree writes, “represented a stable job and income to thousands of laborers across the country. Instead, the Biden Administration canceled it and suggested the pipeliners build solar panels.”

One way the Biden Administration and Congress can encourage new infrastructure projects is to prioritize permitting reform. A 2018 study by the Council on Environmental Quality found review times for energy infrastructure projects have doubled since the 1970s. While Crabtree agrees that pipeline projects should be appropriately vetted, he supports Senator Manchin’s permitting reform framework to streamline the approval of pipeline projects. 

The framework laid out by Senator Manchin’s office includes maximum timelines for NEPA reviews, required presidential list of 25 high-priority energy projects to expedite, and more. Crabtree writes, “It is important that President Biden support this framework without delay so we can get back to building American energy infrastructure.” 

America must maintain and expand our pipeline network to ensure access to affordable, efficient, and reliable energy. Crabtree concludes, “Not only are these skilled jobs affiliated with unions, but they offer family-sustaining salaries, strong benefits, and a strong essence of fulfillment. Good jobs are something we need more of in these uncertain times, and it’s long overdue for Washington to give us the dignity we deserve.”


Watch Neal Crabtree’s recent appearance on Fox & Friends First HERE.