Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Olson: U.S. energy needs fair, sensible rules and less red tape

December 12, 2016
Houston Chronicle

As all Texans and many Americans know, thanks to innovative technologies, we are the No. 1 producer of oil and gas in the world. It wasn't too long ago that the world view saw negative, powerless words like "peak oil" or an "energy crisis." However, simply having vast resources does not immediately translate into benefits at home and abroad. To achieve that, policy changes must be made.

Our focus, as always, is here at home. Our newly accessed reserves of oil and gas tend to be in the middle of the country. Texans are blessed to have little federal land, and we're graced with common-sense bureaucrats in Austin. So we have no problem getting oil to refineries or gas to local communities. However, parts of the country face unnecessarily high gas costs that threaten reliability and drain money from local economies.

Permitting a pipeline, much like developing electricity power lines for some markets in the country, has become remarkably and illogically difficult. Federal regulators make the process lengthy and expensive. It is a system only a bureaucrat could love. The process also forces working families across America to pay more, as well as making it harder for engineers, welders and construction workers to find jobs.

In the House, we are developing solutions that put one federal agency in charge to streamline the permitting nightmare when projects cross federal lands or international boundaries, and generally try to make the process faster and fairer. We will never steamroll local communities. But no one is well-served when bickering and bureaucratic backlogs halt progress.

If we get this process right, all Americans can benefit from U.S. energy abundance. The market should dictate prices. But if the prices are artificially high simply because some Americans live where permitting problem areas exist, that is patently unfair. Thanks to our energy abundance, America is well-positioned to export some of this energy on the global scale. Late last year, my colleagues and I ended an outdated law; as a result, widespread exports of American crude oil are now allowed. Tankers full of our oil are reaching markets across the globe. This makes it harder for thugs like Vladimir Putin to hold American allies hostage by restricting access to Russian crude.

We must also expedite the process for exporting American natural gas. Having recently traveled to India, Japan and South Korea, I've heard first-hand how these American allies need our oil and natural gas to grow their economies. Much of Europe is also in desperate need of natural gas, thanks to politics that hurt their economies. This makes them weaker on the international stage and stuck relying on countries that may not share U.S. foreign policy goals. By slashing the federal red tape on selling natural gas abroad, we can help our allies while creating more jobs right here at home. In Texas and other energy-rich states, this means more energy and construction jobs.

America lacks a comprehensive energy policy. I have long felt that the moment a policy is set in stone, the sooner the reality on the ground begins to change. That is why our best bet is to respond to changing market conditions by developing sensible rules that allow the market to work and benefit American interests at the same time.

Olson, a Republican representing Houston-area District 22 in the U.S. House of Representatives, is vice chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee. He is leading the subcommittee following the resignation from Congress last month of Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

By Rep. Pete Olson U.S. Congress, Texas 22nd District