Building the infrastructure to meet America’s energy production
As extreme cold and snow continue to pound the Northeast, weary homeowners and businesses are bracing themselves for a different type of storm – paying their utility bills. The Northeast has some of the highest energy prices in the nation, with costs climbing to as much as 50 percent higher than a year ago.
While growing production from America’s natural gas boom translates into real energy cost savings for much of the country, that’s not the case throughout the Northeast. Pennsylvania— home to the largest natural gas field in the nation—has residents seeing rock bottom heating and electricity prices. But, drive just six hours from the Marcellus natural gas fields to Boston and you will find people paying about six times more to heat their homes and generate electricity using natural gas.
Why such a significant difference when, clearly, supply is not the issue? The answer is actually quite simple: the Northeast lacks the pipeline infrastructure to transport this clean, affordable—and local—resource north. The region’s current transportation capacity falls 1 to 2 billion cubic feet short of the volume it needs.
The solution—building more pipelines—though obvious, is very expensive. This is where master limited partnerships (MLPs) play a critical role. Created to encourage investment in capital intensive natural resource industries—such as energy exploration, production, transportation, and storage, MLPs are integral to financing the construction of new energy infrastructure assets and linking energy producers with end-use consumers.
Just last year, MLPs invested more than $29 billion across the country, bringing total recent investments to approximately $117 billion. One MLP company addressing the issue of pipeline capacity in the Northeast has three projects in various stages of development. The projects will relieve pipeline constraints and bring natural gas where it is needed—to electric generators. With operations set to begin between 2016 and 2018, these projects reach a total investment of nearly $5 billion.
Significant infrastructure investments such as these will help fully harness the energy resources needed to power our nation. In fact, a recent report by ICF International notes that the United States and Canada will require a total investment of $641 billion in natural gas, crude oil, and natural gas liquids infrastructure by 2035.
Many lawmakers in Congress understand the critical role energy infrastructure plays in strengthening the long-term health of our economy and national security. In fact, in the first weeks of the 114th Congress, we saw bipartisan passage of a bill to speed the approval process for natural gas pipeline applications.
Moving forward, it is imperative that our political leaders maintain a policy environment that allows MLPs—which have proven their worth for more than 25 years now—to continue to grow in order to meet rising demand. Such an environment would ensure that a wide variety of domestic energy products make their way efficiently and cost-effectively from the production fields to our homes, businesses, and communities.
So while the Northeast continues to dig out from historic snowfalls, let this winter be a stark reminder that keeping warm, turning on a light, or cooking a meal all require reliable and safe energy infrastructure. Let’s not delay construction. Rather, let’s support the businesses that will help us share our nation’s energy renaissance with all Americans.
By: Mary Lyman, Executive Director, The Master Limited Partnership Association (MLPA)