While we always expect over-the-top policy promises during presidential campaigns, banning the safe, responsible development of American natural gas would be absolutely devastating for consumers, our economy, the environment and our national security.
Clean and affordable, natural gas will play a vital part in how we sustainably power our modern world. This fuel not only heats our homes and cooks our food, but it is the primary fuel used to manufacture nearly everything we touch in today’s modern world.
Indeed, there is no better partner for renewables. 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.”
But the implications of banning fracking go beyond just the elimination of a key energy option. Such a policy would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying Pennsylvania jobs, a $45 billion annual reduction in state GDP and cost $3,500 per household, according to a 2016 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report.
As the second-largest natural gas producing state, Pennsylvania stands as a model to the broad environmental and economic benefits of America’s shale natural gas revolution.
The commonwealth’s oil and natural gas industry supports more than 300,000 direct and indirect jobs, including many among the region’s union building trades, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis. In fact, Pittsburgh was recently ranked by Commercial Café as one of the “most successful” Rust Belt city comebacks, citing the “steady supply of well-paying, blue-collar jobs” from the Marcellus shale industry.
A ban on fracking would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying Pennsylvania jobs, a $45 billion annual reduction in state GDP and cost $3,500 per household.
Consumers, too, have benefited. Pennsylvania ratepayers have witnessed historic reductions in natural gas commodity prices that have been a major economic driver for small business across the state. Based on data from the state Public Utility Commission, households are realizing an annual average energy savings of $1,100 to $2,200.
Likewise, expanding shale gas development bolsters other industries, particularly those that are energy intensive, driving the growth of good-paying manufacturing jobs.
Consider the ethane cracker plant under construction in Beaver County, where 6,000, mostly union, men and women are hard at work building the world-class facility that will convert abundant natural gas liquids into the building blocks of everyday plastics. Or the recently announced expansion at Marcus Hook in Delaware County, which will mean the creation of 1,200 workers to complete construction.
Given the shared economic benefits that energy delivers – consumer savings and good-paying jobs – it’s no wonder labor is “skeptical” of proposals to ban fracking, according to a recent Associated Press report. Or that voters “fear [the] economic impact,” as found by a recent Rasmussen Reports nationwide survey.
Politicians should recognize that we are meeting key environmental goals thanks to increased use of natural gas in power generation and transportation.
In 2017, total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reached their lowest levels in 25 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, propelling the nation to the world leader in CO2 emissions reductions. Asthma-inducing and ozone-harming air pollutants plummeted during the same period, and EPA data also concludes 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 electric generation – natural gas should be a core focus of any public policy discussion aimed at building upon the economic progress we have 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. The group can be contacted at Communications@MarcellusCoalition.org.