Earlier this month, millions of Americans tuned in to watch the State of the Union address in which President Biden reminded us that we are “the only nation in the world built on an idea” and that possibilities are endless if we remember who we are. A hopeful sentiment.
Unfortunately, the president’s discussion on how the administration plans to ensure that American businesses have access to affordable and reliable energy was muddied by political rhetoric on corporate profits clearly aimed to appease his base. That wasn’t so hopeful.
Small businesses in this country depend on sound policies from our nation’s leaders that provide a solid foundation for growth. That includes smart policies on energy and energy infrastructure that assure business owners will have the power to fuel innovation and economic growth for years to come.
Unfortunately, the last two years have focused on policies that weakened America’s energy security. For example, there was the cancelation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the fact this administration has issued the lowest number of land leases since World War II. These policies, and the threat of more to come, have largely hampered domestic oil and gas production with more barriers and costs.
But the start of the 118th Congress marks a new opportunity to cut partisan bickering, restore government accountability, and find common ground on issues like energy, especially given the building global energy crisis. As the president said, “There’s nothing, nothing, beyond our capacity if we do it together.” A fresh start and renewed policies will increase our energy supply and power the small businesses that dominate our economy.
As of 2019, there were 6.1 million employer firms, with 98.1 percent representing 100 or fewer employees. In addition, these small enterprises contribute to the bulk of job creation and have accounted for 62 percent of net-new job creation since 1995. But these millions of small businesses have much at stake regarding our country’s energy policy. Not only because small businesses spend an estimated $60 billion annually on energy but also because the energy supply chain is largely populated by smaller enterprises of 100 employees or fewer.
Therefore, the federal government’s policies that hamper U.S. oil and natural gas production is significantly hurting the entrepreneurs, small businesses and workers that operate in this industry. Sector after sector, including related manufacturers, is largely made up of small businesses. Take the actual drilling of oil and gas wells. Of the companies that conduct these operations, more than 69 percent have fewer than 10 employees. So, to the chagrin of political pundits, an attack on the energy sector is a direct attack on small business, not just “Big Oil,” as many assume.
It is this assumption that produces political pandering rather than sound policymaking when it comes to the future of fossil fuel use in this country. In addition, almost every authoritative forecast agrees that demand for oil and gas will remain constant over the next decade. Even Biden acknowledged, “We’re still going to need oil and gas for a while.”
We can meet rising energy needs with less regulation and more streamlined processes for the projects supporting our access to cheap and reliable energy. Explicitly, we need to speed up the pace at which we build and connect new energy projects— both for fossil fuels and renewables.
Although Congress could not act on pivotal permitting reform last session, we have a prime opportunity to capitalize on bipartisan interest and avoid the toxic political gamesmanship that dominated the previous round of permitting talks. In fact, bipartisanship is already progressing on Capitol Hill. Earlier this month, House Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., held an initial summit to discuss a path forward.
A revamped permitting process for U.S. energy infrastructure and investments would increase our domestic energy supply and create a more conducive environment for existing and new businesses. Unleashing American energy will sustain and create jobs while supporting the most extensive base of our economy — small businesses.
Additionally, we must reopen our federal lands and water to exploration and production to sustain long-term infrastructure projects. This administration marks the lowest public land leasing of natural gas and oil since World War II, thus hindering our country’s ability to expand production and job creation. Although there has been a downward trend in leasing over the past decade, reopening federal land leases will facilitate growth, including in assorted local economies.
Despite its political split, it is hoped the 118th Congress will engage in productive, bipartisan cooperation, as our president mentioned. Our nation can’t afford a system that is dominated by political gamesmanship and faulty assumptions, and governed by policies that hamstring the U.S. energy and critical infrastructure. We need cooperation and collaboration between the business community and our elected officials. Now is the time to act.