Native American protesters blocking the construction of an oil pipeline from North Dakota southwest to Illinois are stopping critical energy infrastructure, a top energy official said Tuesday.
American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard told reporters that protesters blocking the Dakota Access pipeline are hurting their own interests.
He said the pipeline, which would carry crude oil, was emblematic of the struggles to get more energy infrastructure built in the United States. For example, the inability to build more natural gas pipelines is restricting a fuel that he says is responsible for making U.S. carbon emissions the lowest they have been in 20 years, citing the Energy Information Administration.
"They have a fundamental view that is inconsistent with where the American voter is," Gerard said, citing polls commissioned by the lobbying group showing support for increased energy production.
Members of a Sioux community in North Dakota have been camped out in a field used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and blocking construction of the pipeline for months, according to the New York Times. The group compares the Dakota Access pipeline to the Keystone XL project that was ultimately blocked by the Obama administration for being a climate change threat.
Gerard said the protesters are missing the point with their protests.
"A lot of these issues are really sideshows, if you will, to the fundamental questions, which is can you do it in an environmentally sound way, which we've demonstrated repeatedly," Gerard said.
If the project is blocked, the ability of oil producers to bring their product to the market will cause gasoline prices to increase and slow down the economy, he argued.
Meanwhile, fossil fuel activists have argued that slowed construction of pipelines has led to a natural gas glut, which has caused production to slow and workers to be laid off.
"Increasing our nation's energy infrastructure is critical to our well-being in advancing our nation's energy renaissance," Gerard said. "It's really that energy infrastructure that's allowed us to become the world's leader in energy production … and drive our carbon emissions to a 20-year low."