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Matt Koch A pedestrian carries a Venezuelan flag during a national strike in Caracas, Venezuela.A pedestrian carries a Venezuelan flag during a national strike in Caracas, Venezuela.Photo credit: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg.

Venezuela’s on-going political and economic crisis emphasizes the need for the United States to continue to diversify and grow its supplies of energy, particularly from our neighbor to the north – Canada.  More pointedly, it highlights the importance of expanding and building more pipelines from Canada, such as TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Enbridge’s Line 3.

While the U.S. has grown to be largest oil and gas producer in world, we still import crude oil and petroleum products to meet our needs.  In 2016 U.S. net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum from foreign countries were equal to about 25% of the petroleum consumed in our country.

Due to its vast conventional crude and oil sands resources, its proximity, and our favorable trade relationship, the amount of crude oil that we import from Canada has increased and we import more oil from Canada than from any other country. 

Venezuela is the third largest exporter of crude oil to the U.S., supplying nearly 750,000 barrels per day of heavy crude oil supplies to U.S. refiners, delivered primarily by ocean tanker.  As the Houston Chronicle points out, Gulf Coast refiners remain dependent on the supplies of heavy crude from Venezuela, and the political unrest and possible supply disruptions are causing concern and forcing refiners to look elsewhere for supplies, including to Canada.

While it is great that we have the ability to turn to Canada to purchase more energy, it will be even better when we have a more extensive, flexible energy delivery network that can make those supplies more readily available.

Coincidently, the amount of heavy crude oil that is expected to be delivered by Keystone XL is almost exactly equal to what we import from Venezuela. It is too bad that Keystone XL was unfairly delayed – we could certainly use it now.  

Editor's note: This originally appeared on the Global Energy Institute's blog.

Sean Hackbarth Dakota Access Pipeline protesters pin a security guard against a truck.Dakota Access Pipeline protesters pin a security guard against a truck. Photo source: Morton County (N.D.) Sheriff's Department.

Taking a strong stands publically on issues is part of the American Way and so cherished that free speech is embedded in our constitution.

Unfortunately, some “Keep it in the ground,” fracking opponents have moved from peaceful protests to violence, while others waste public funds on Quixotic escapades.

First in Iowa, where two opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline stood before reporters’ cameras and confessed to damaging oil pipeline valves and committing arson:

Jessica Reznicek, 35, and Ruby Montoya, 27, both of Des Moines, held a news conference Monday outside the Iowa Utilities Board’s offices where they provided a detailed description of their deliberate efforts to stop the pipeline's completion. They were taken into custody by state troopers immediately afterward when they abruptly began using a crowbar and a hammer to damage a sign on state property.

The two women said they researched how to pierce the steel pipe used for the pipeline and in March they began using oxyacetylene cutting torches to damage exposed, empty pipeline valves. They said they started deliberately vandalizing the pipeline in southeast Iowa's Mahaska County, delaying completion for weeks.

Reznicek and Montoya said they subsequently used torches to cause damage up and down the pipeline throughout Iowa and into part of South Dakota, moving from valve to valve until running out of supplies.

The two women said they later returned to arson as a tactic, using tires and gasoline soaked rags to burn multiple valve sites and electric units, as well as heavy equipment located on pipeline easements throughout Iowa. They said they attempted again in May to pierce a valve in southeast Iowa's Wapello County with a cutting torch. But they were disappointed to learn oil was already in the pipe.

Ironically, the vandals wouldn’t have been able to employ their tools or get to the scenes of their crimes without the petroleum they oppose.

More importantly, they could have caused an oil spill, something they said they’re trying to stop. Oil pipeline are under high pressure, and tampering with them is extremely dangerous.  “On the wrong pipeline, in the wrong place (actions like this) could kill people,” said pipeline expert Richard Kuprewicz in 2016 when a set of coordinated attacks took place on five pipelines in four states. These actions are reckless and put the safety and lives of people in the community, workers, and public safety officials needlessly at risk and in harms way.

Next, in North Dakota, taxpayers have to fork over $38 million to pay for police costs and the cleanup of the mess Dakota Access Pipeline protesters made along the Missouri River. (These people claim to be fighting for a clean planet.) Far from being peaceful, the protesters attacked security guards and launched Molotov cocktails at police.

Finally, in Youngstown, Ohio, instead of property damage there's been taxpayer waste. Since 2013, shale energy opponents have been waging a fruitless war to ban fracking at the ballot box, even though the shale boom revived manufacturing and created jobs in the city.

They’ve been losing at the ballot box, but local taxpayers are stuck footing the bill, Energy In Depth discovered:

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and documents from the City of Youngstown and Mahoning County Board of Elections confirm that the city has paid $19,219.55 advertising the six previous ballot measures. Each time the so-called Community Bill of Rights is placed on the ballot, the City of Youngstown pays approximately $6,000 in required advertising costs. The Mahoning County Board of elections has confirmed that $168,000 has also been paid by the City of Youngstown to print the ballots, additional advertising, ballot space, poll workers, and notes there are additional funds that have been paid to staff to count the votes.

Thousands of dollars more could be spent, since fracking opponents have collected signatures to put another referendum on the ballot.

Whether it is property damage, violence, or wasted taxpayer dollars, communities are paying a high price for fracking opponents’ protests. 

Heath Knakmuhs PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant PG&E's nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon, CA.Photo credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Here at the Global Energy Institute, we have always advocated for a diverse, reliable mix of energy resources that contribute toward keeping America secure, prosperous, and clean.  A key cornerstone of that energy mix is our fleet of 99 commercial nuclear reactors that provide approximately twenty percent of the electricity that we reply upon every day to power our lives and run our economy.

The vast majority of these plants were built many decades ago, and while many of them are designed to perform well into the future, the last five years has seen the retirement of a number of nuclear generation resources due to local pressures, economic reasons, and sometimes mere economies of scale.  Even in the wake of these retirements, however, nuclear generation technology remains our most dependable carbon-free generation resource, with dispatch rates and fuel security unrivaled by any other source of electricity.  Therefore, the retirements we have seen should not signal the end of nuclear’s contribution to our energy security, but rather the beginning of a new generation of nuclear plants that can power our way toward the 22nd century.             

With that being said, nuclear is not cheap to build.  The expansion of the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility in Georgia, with the addition of two new nuclear reactors, is currently estimated to cost in excess of $14 billion, given that Southern Company most recently estimated that its 45.7% share of the project would top $7 billion.  While securing loans of this magnitude can be difficult even for Fortune 500 utilities, the Department of Energy’s Section 1703 loan guarantee program enables projects like Vogtle to happen.  In total, Section 1703 has provided Vogtle with upwards of $8 billion in loan guarantees.  Not only do these guarantees support approximately 5,000 construction jobs and the 800 permanent jobs resulting from the construction and ultimate operations of the Vogtle expansion, but they also stand to provide the project’s ultimate customers with hundreds of millions in cost savings.            

Unfortunately, like many government programs, the Section 1703 loan guarantee has its critics who seek to eliminate the employment and clean energy benefits the program supports.  Not only does Section 1703 support America’s next generation of nuclear power, but it is also designed to assist with the development and deployment of biomass, hydrogen, solar, wind, hydropower, and clean coal energy projects.  Section 1703 also exists to accelerate the development of alternative fuel vehicles, industrial energy efficiency projects, and advanced pollution control equipment.             

Through the support of Section 1703, America can become the world’s supplier of these advanced and clean energy technologies.  This is not only good for America’s economy, but also for the electrification of billions of this planet’s residents in an environmentally sensitive manner.           

That is why we signed onto this letter to express our support for the retention of the Department of Energy’s Section 1703 loan guarantee program.  Advanced technologies depend upon an extra push in the beginning, but they payoff many times over in the end.  Let’s make sure we continue America’s leadership role and the concomitant economic benefits this leadership provides.    

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Global Energy Institute’s blog.