Shale key part of the state’s future

By David Spigelmyer

Pennsylvania is blessed with abundant natural resources. For more than 200 years, our coal, timber, oil and natural gas have been the raw materials that have built our nation.

Today, thanks to our abundance natural gas resources, we have another generational opportunity to unleash American manufacturing.

That rebirth of good-paying, middle-class manufacturing jobs starts at the wellhead.

Over the past decade, Pennsylvania has emerged as the nation’s second largest natural gas producing state. In fact, if the Appalachian Basin — Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia — were a country, it would be the world’s third largest natural gas producer.

Alongside the safe, continued development of clean, burning natural gas has come good-paying jobs, new tax revenues and improved air quality.

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, natural gas development supports more than 320,000 jobs and contributes $45 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy.

The study found that for every job generated in the oil and gas industry, an additional 2.7 jobs were produced throughout the U.S. economy.

Natural gas and natural gas liquids are the primary feedstocks to many manufacturing and petrochemical facilities, including the development of plastics. These operations rely on an affordable, reliable natural gas source, giving Pennsylvania a natural energy advantage to attracting new manufacturers.

Earlier this month Chevron and Peoples Natural Gas launched the “Forge the Future” initiative with an economic analysis from McKinsey & Company that examines these downstream opportunities.

The report projects Pennsylvania could see a $60 billion increase in gross domestic product over the next decade and more than 100,000 additional jobs.

The ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is a perfect example of Pennsylvania’s manufacturing future. Construction has begun on the plant that will take natural gas liquids in the form of ethane and produce the plastic used in nearly every consumer product.

With 6,000 jobs supported during construction and another 600 when the plant is operational, this facility is just the first of what could be many more throughout the Commonwealth.

To fully realize our manufacturing opportunity ahead, we need the right mix of production, infrastructure and policies that will drive job-creating investment and economic growth.

An IHS Markit report, commissioned by the Wolf administration, concluded that Pennsylvania’s strong natural gas liquids production could attract four more ethane crackers to the region, totaling up to $3.7 billion in added investment.

The researchers said the commonwealth “must begin taking immediate steps to support a long-term strategy that will maximize in-state economic development” in order to remain competitive.

With our operators committed to safely developing and moving our natural gas resources to market, policymakers, too, need to recognize this opportunity and look toward pro-growth solutions to attract investment, not drive it away.

Spigelmyer is president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. Learn more at MarcellusCoalition.org.