More and more each day we are seeing statistics reflecting what most of us in the pipeline industry already know: the economic impact of a booming energy industry – pipelines included – is primarily responsible for economic condition of the United States.
Whoa, don’t blame us for the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the anemic growth of the American economy many would quickly say. That statement is actually reflective of good news for the nation as a whole. If the job growth and money being spent and generated from the energy industry was removed from the past five years, the U.S. would have flat to negative growth. In fact, some have convincingly argued that the energy market has kept the U.S. from actually slipping into a second recession.
Shale oil and gas and all of the subsequent market booms such as pipelines, has been providing sunshine for almost seven years while most other markets drifted through the darkness of depressed or receding industries. Literally millions of jobs have been added. Take that out of the equation and who knows where our economy would actually be today.
Also, a term keeps cropping up in energy discussions that have rarely – if ever – been associated with pipelines. In fact, it is a concept more foreign than familiar for long-time pipeliners. Talk of “sustainability” of the strong energy/pipeline market, perhaps for as long as 20 years or more, is both exhilarating and frightening in some ways. Regardless, energy will be the hero of American economics for the foreseeable future.
But does energy get credit in the public eye? Unfortunately, no. We endlessly battle a perception that petrocarbons are evil which is simply a misguided fiction promulgated by environmental zealots and an administration/Senate preaching the gospel of saving our environment through alternative energy. Never mind the importance of oil derivatives embedded in virtually every fabric of our lives. Never mind that gas generates cheap energy with a low carbon footprint. Never mind that alternative energy technology is decades, maybe centuries, from being capable of realistically replacing carbon fuel. And never mind that alternative energy initiatives can rarely survive without significant government financial support.
It all boils down to “being green” to save the planet – an emotionally-charged but entirely unrealistic and unsubstantiated fairy tale. Without oil and gas specifically, the world’s economy as we know it would come crashing down. Our quality of life would revert back 250 years. And don’t plan on burning wood or peat moss in your fireplace! That emits a proportionately larger carbon footprint than any gas, oil or even coal-fueled power plant.
One would assume there should be an appreciation by the anti-carbon crowd regarding the benefits of natural gas, or that the general public would be appreciative of the economic stability and growth brought forth by the energy boom. It only makes sense for the President and Congress to embrace the gas market for the potential carbon savings-at-a-cheap price.
But no, for the anti-crowd, it is more important to remember the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez or the more recent Deepwater Horizon spill and how the evil, money-grubbing energy companies would rather contaminate the birds and other animals than clean up the spills. Too many extremists believe that it is better for humans to die so that birds may fly. The fact that the overall safety and pollution record of the oil and gas industry is borderline stellar when compared with other industries is, to paraphrase a well-known environmentalist, an “inconvenient truth.”
Where is the middle ground of environmental sensitivity combined with practical, economic compromises by using products like natural gas? The camps are polarized and compromise has become a dirty word; a symbol of failure by organizations such as the Environmental Defense Council and Greenpeace.
But despite the seemingly constant spate of oil and gas criticism, the industry continues to prosper – and buoy America’s economy. At the pipeline industry’s top conference, the Pipeline Opportunities Conference, hosted by our sister publications Pipeline & Gas Journal and Pipeline News, literally all of the expert speakers and industry players were extremely bullish on the future of pipeline work. Smiles abounded and the doomsday crowd was nowhere to be found.
So to the naysayers, you are welcome to criticize the energy and pipeline market all you want. Curse the evil effects of oil and gas. But as we put people to work, continue to fuel our growing national needs all while performing in an environmentally friendly and safe manner at a cheap price, we can proudly say “we’re pipeliners and we’re looking out for America’s future.”