US energy production supports jobs in Virginia

Ron Jenkins

From groceries to gasoline and school supplies to childcare, Americans across the country face major budget constraints. Many families have had to economize and prioritize one important purchase over another. Others have learned to do more with less. American small businesses — particularly those that are fuel-intensive — are no different.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, where small businesses are the backbone of our economy and agriculture and forestry our largest industry, unexpected and uncontrolled spikes in energy and fuel costs are having a devastating impact. Inflation hit a record high of 9.1% in June, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while gas prices rose 26% year-on-year in the same month. Close observers of diesel prices saw even more dramatic increases, with average prices up 60% this summer from the same period last year. Not only are these increases alarming, they are unsustainable for our small businesses, including logging and forest products operations.

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Fortunately, these challenges are not without solutions – or at least efforts that can mitigate their damaging effects. For example, President Biden and Congress can take immediate action to support increased production of affordable, reliable domestic energy resources, including biomass. Increasing US oil, gas and biomass production would not only help correct our current supply and demand imbalance, but also support American jobs and domestic energy security. We need only consider the war in Ukraine as an example of the volatility American consumers face when we tie our energy dependency too closely to foreign regimes.

Instead, the US should expand domestic energy production by lifting onerous regulations, investing in vital infrastructure, and reforming our outdated federal permitting process. These measures would increase energy production and lower fuel prices. In Virginia, for example, there are numerous energy projects in various stages of development, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline and research and development into aviation fuel sources from sustainable, renewable biomass. These projects will provide vital energy resources to families and businesses in Virginia for years to come. These projects will also provide good jobs and sustainable revenue streams to communities throughout Virginia during their development and upon completion.

As with any complex political matter, it is critical that Congress avoids pitfalls and unintended consequences as it seeks solutions to this energy crisis. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of voices who bemoan fuel costs but oppose new production, or who call for job creation and economic development but stand in the way of essential resources that would attract those jobs. In the US Senate, for example, some have called for a “windfall profit tax” for our domestic oil and gas industry that would impose a tax of over 50% on profits – and this tax would be in addition to the taxes these companies pay. Instead of filling up the coffers and creating new layers of bureaucratic bureaucracy, our elected leaders should encourage capital investment in operational efficiencies, improved infrastructure and innovative technologies. It’s the kind of approach that actually saves consumers money and supports American jobs.

As Congress continues to explore ways to lead our country out of our current energy and livelihood crisis, I encourage the Virginia delegation to support policies that truly help families and small businesses. Increasing energy production, investing in critical infrastructure, and reducing regulatory and tax burdens are just three key principles that will drive down costs and provide consumers with greater peace of mind.

Jenkins is the executive director of the Virginia Loggers Association.