American manufacturing is growing thanks to affordable natural gas | Opinion

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With local and affordable natural gas, American manufacturing is growing and getting stronger by the day. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s position as the nation’s second largest natural gas producing state, a manufacturing jobs revival is underway.

Natural gas is essential to modern life. It keeps our lights on and is the building block for countless consumer products. From energy-intensive manufacturers – like steelmaking – to plastics production, pharmaceuticals, and the fertilizers essential to our nation’s food supply, natural gas fuels manufacturing.

Pennsylvania is well positioned to attract investment in new manufacturing opportunities and the high-tech, modern careers that come along with them.

Domestic natural gas production is meeting growing demand, as production and consumption reached record highs in 2018, according to the federal Energy Information Administration – with Pennsylvania responsible for producing a quarter of total U.S. output. This trend is expected to continue for decades, as Appalachian natural gas is forecasted to supply 45 percent of all U.S. production by 2040, according to a IHS Markit report.

Led by growth in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, in fact, the United States has a record future supply of natural gas, according to the latest analysis from the well-respected Potential Gas Committee.

This surge in American natural gas production provides a competitive edge in the global economy, enabling manufacturers to invest and grow jobs across our region.

Manufacturing output in Pennsylvania has increased by $14 billion since 2009, reaching $88 billion today. That increase in output boosts employment too, as manufacturing employs 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s workforce in careers that pay nearly $25,000 higher than the state average, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Look no further than Shell’s ethane cracker in Beaver County, the largest private sector investment in Pennsylvania since World War II. Nearly 6,000 hard-working men and women, mostly from the region’s union building trades, are on-site constructing the facility that, once complete, will take ethane – a natural gas liquid produced across Appalachia – and convert it into the building blocks for everyday plastics.

Similarly, just outside of Philadelphia, $200 million is being invested to modernize and expand the energy storage and transport terminal at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, employing 1,200 area building trades union members.

Pennsylvania’s energy-enabled manufacturing growth has helped ensure that building trade unions are operating at near record employment levels. New members are being trained to meet a growing need for qualified workers and the building trades are leading the way in constructing the critical infrastructure that safely connects more clean-burning natural gas to power plants, manufacturers, local businesses, homes, schools and hospitals.

By embracing smart policies that embrace natural gas and the opportunities it presents for our entire economy, Pennsylvania can create 100,000 new jobs and add $60 billion in economic growth over the next decade, according to the “Forge the Future” report.

Pro-manufacturing, pro-worker and pro-energy policies like “Energize PA” are a step in the right direction to encourage job-creating investment and growth in manufacturing opportunities across the Commonwealth.

Advancing commonsense solutions focused on natural gas development and expanded use – particularly in the industrial sector – will ensure we can continue to rebuild our manufacturing base in America. By working together toward this shared goal, Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce will benefit tremendously for many years to come.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. David N. Taylor is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association.

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