Public policy should support, not eliminate, technology behind shale gas revolution

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A flood of climate plans has been released recently by 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, with some centering on eliminating the very technology that’s driving economic growth and environmental progress.

Banning the safe, responsible use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” unequivocally threatens U.S. national security, good-paying jobs and the continued opportunity for environmental progress.

Clean, domestic natural gas plays a vital role in how we sustainably power our modern world. As I shared with members of the House Small Business Committee this week, Pennsylvania — the nation’s second-largest natural gas producing state — is a model to the broad environmental and economic benefits of America’s shale revolution.

Pennsylvania’s oil and natural gas industry supports more than 300,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributes $45 billion to the state’s economy, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis. As the shale industry advances, Pennsylvania consumers have witnessed historic home energy savings — $1,100 to $2,200 per household, on average, annually — that have been a major lift for families, small businesses and manufacturers across the state.

Likewise, expanding shale gas development bolsters other industries, particularly those that are energy intensive. Ready access to affordable natural gas has lowered costs for manufacturers, growing jobs and creating entrepreneurial opportunity.

Blue-collar manufacturing jobs are prospering; our building trades are working at full tilt constructing power generation facilities, pipelines and a world-class petrochemical complex west of Pittsburgh in Beaver County, Pa. Renewable energy companies, too, are benefitting. For small businesses in the clean energy space looking to innovate and develop new technologies, the affordability of natural gas will continue to be a major contributor to long-term viability and success.

We are witnessing the extraordinary modernization of Pennsylvania’s power generation sector — nearly $13 billion will be invested in the construction or retrofitting of clean, efficient combined-cycle natural gas power plants by 2021.

Indeed, there is no better partner for renewables than natural gas. According to the International Energy Agency, “natural gas has an important role to play in complementing low-carbon energy solutions by providing the flexibility needed to support a growing renewables component in power generation.”

With the greater use of natural gas, Pennsylvania — and our nation more broadly — is making incredible clean air strides. In 2017, total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States reached their lowest levels in 25 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, propelling the nation to the world leader in CO2 emission reductions. Asthma-inducing and ozone-harming air pollutants plummeted during the same period, and EPA data also conclude total methane emissions are 19 percent lower than in 1990.

These significant gains are not despite the shale revolution, but rather because of it.

America’s pursuit of a clean energy future must prioritize innovation, job growth and a sustainable economy. As our elected leaders grapple with how to best achieve this, they would do well to look to the benefits of natural gas as experienced in Pennsylvania.

Supporting a thriving natural gas industry — from production to pipeline deployment to its growth in electricity generation — should be a core focus of any public policy discussions aimed at building upon the progress our industry has realized for Pennsylvania and the nation.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a leading regional natural gas trade association, based in Pittsburgh. He previously was vice president of Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s Appalachia division; served in similar roles at EQT Corporation and Dominion Resources; and held other energy industry-related positions in New York State and Washington.

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