Dave McCormick: A Rescue Plan for American Energy and the Environment

By: Dave McCormick
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
March 7, 2024

The science is clear: climate change is happening, and human activity is one of many contributing factors. That should not be controversial. The key question is what to do about this reality.

There are two competing approaches to this challenge. One seeks to overhaul and constrain America’s energy industry from Washington in the name of fighting climate change. The other unleashes American energy production and innovation to power growth, create good jobs, and reduce our dependence on China, all while protecting the environment at the same time.

Unleashing production

In a speech last Friday in Pittsburgh, I laid out why the second approach is the best path and offered three steps to make America an energy superpower.

The first step is to unlock oil and gas production here at home. Pennsylvania is blessed with bountiful natural resources. If our Commonwealth were a country, it would have the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world. Unleashing these resources and other energy-producing regions not only provides acheap and reliable energy supply but also helps the environment.

Because natural gas is significantly cleaner than coal, one of the most effective ways to reduce global emissions is exporting liquified natural gas to replace foreign coal. This is good for America and good for allies who want to build their economies and protect the environment.

While the Gulf Coast has a growing number of LNG export terminals, pipelines and export capacity on the East Coast are tapped out, putting Pennsylvania at a huge competitive disadvantage. That’s why permitting reform is so important. Even when companies want to build new infrastructure, it gets held up for years by federal red tape that delays projects by five years on average, if approved at all. And fixing this process is not just about pipelines — clean energy projects will also benefit.

Next, we should embrace an “all-of-the-above” energy approach that provides market-driven support to clean energy alternatives, including nuclear. Cheap and reliable clean energy will be critical to powering artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing. If Pennsylvania cannot provide the affordable and reliable energy these industries need, those jobs will go elsewhere or even worse — to places like China.

Good stewards

That’s why nuclear power has to be a significant part of our energy mix. Countries around the world have proven that nuclear, like natural gas, can provide safe and reliable baseload power at scale. When the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, we need stable energy sources to keep America moving. In Pennsylvania, more than 90% of the grid is powered by natural gas and nuclear combined. The rest of the nation should be more like Pennsylvania.

Unleashing nuclear energy requires reforming the approval process for nuclear projects while balancing safety concerns. Building on size and safety innovations in small modular reactors, capital-intensive advanced nuclear projects require an accelerated permitting process that gets reactors online to produce cheap, reliable energy for our communities.

We should also embrace emerging technologies like carbon capture and storage that can lower or offset emissions from power plants and manufacturing and also ensure America is a global leader in battery technology and production.

Finally, we must leverage our abundant resources as a source of geopolitical strength. By expanding LNG exports and pipeline infrastructure across our borders with Canada and Mexico, North America can realize its potential as an energy powerhouse that can compete with OPEC. We also must end policies that make us more dependent on the Chinese Communist Party, our greatest adversary, for clean energy.

All three of these steps can be taken while also being good stewards of our environment. Over the past two decades, America has shown it can balance between energy security and environmental protection. Shifting coal power plants to natural gas and clean energy innovations have cut total U.S. emissions to 16% below 2005 levels in 2022, despite a rising population and growing economy. All while China and India combined represent a third of global emissions and are growing rapidly.

A balanced approach

This balanced approach is in stark contrast to the policies of the current administration which has made mitigating climate change and reducing energy consumption the primary goals of its energy policy. The result?

Today America is more dependent than ever on the CCP for critical minerals and components driving clean energy technologies like lithium batteries and solar panels, and has stopped crucial energy infrastructure projects, such as pausing new LNG export terminal permits, driving higher energy prices for U.S. consumers.

This should not be a partisan issue. The solutions to climate change won’t come from top-down direction from Washington that impose choices, pay subsidies, and deprive people of affordable energy. By relying on market forces, along with American innovation and ingenuity, we can make the United States an energy superpower — enhancing our economy and creating jobs, strengthening our security, and combating climate change.