Op-Ed: A Key to America’s Growth Lies Beneath Pennsylvania’s Soil

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no magic elixir to address the myriad of economic, security, and environmental challenges out there. However, one commonsense solution to advance America’s interest in all three lies beneath Pennsylvania’s soil.

For about a decade, the United States has been the world’s largest natural gas producer, surpassing Russia in 2011. In fact, Pennsylvania, which supplies one-fifth of America’s natural gas needs, is in contention with Texas for MVP.

Of course, low prices have challenged energy companies and towns whose economies are centered on energy production. The bust cycles have caused layoffs, bankruptcies, and consolidations. Low prices and suppressed demand have forced companies to innovate and cut costs.

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Despite facing immense financial and economic challenges, Pennsylvania’s energy producers increased year over year production by the end of 2020. As the U.S. and global economy reopen, it will generate more demand for energy. Pennsylvania’s role in meeting that demand will be critical.

The advantages of U.S. natural gas production are significant, ranging from global geopolitical benefits down to energy savings for families. Although prices recently increased amid a cold snap in February, on average, households that use natural gas for heating, cooking, and drying clothes save nearly $900 per year compared with families using electric appliances, per an analysis from the American Gas Association.

For Pennsylvanians specifically, households are saving $1,200 on average on their utility bills compared with a decade ago, per the Marcellus Shale Coalition. That’s more money for food, health care, or a summer vacation, and a big boost to lower-income families.

Affordable energy also results in lower prices for all the manufactured goods we buy. A 2019 White House Council of Economic Advisers report tallied that savings to be $2,500 per family of four each year.ADVERTISEMENT

America’s ascendence in exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) is additionally providing U.S. allies with more energy choice. Domestic energy producers are helping to loosen Russia’senergy dominance over Europe. This includes Pennsylvanian producers, who are shipping natural gas out of the Cove Point Terminal in Lusby, Md.

As U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, I spent over three years talking with both European and American leaders. Nearly every stakeholder emphasized the importance of energy security and the U.S. as an essential strategic ally.

In spite of challenges caused by the pandemic and hurricanes in the Gulf Coast (where much of the export infrastructure exists), and total shale output declining in the U.S., LNG exports reached an all-time high in December.

It’s a total 180 from where the country was 15 years ago as companies were building infrastructure to import natural gas. As a global leader in energy exports, the U.S. continues to strengthen economic and national security partnerships.ADVERTISEMENThttps://f46042902bcb0f0dcb97c0576f8db7d2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Importantly, during the natural gas boom, jobs and investments in manufacturing facilities went up while energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have fallen. According to Environmental Protection Agency data, U.S. methane emissions from natural gas systems are down 23.2% from 1990 levels.

And the industry is supplying cleaner energy using fewer resources than it did in the past. Dave Callahan, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, recently remarked that “the industry is now recycling 93% or more of wastewater.”

U.S. energy policy should reflect the economic, environmental, and national security benefits of open markets and competition. Regrettably, recent actions by the Biden administration are taking the opposite approach. Keep-it-in-the-ground policies like canceling the Keystone XL pipeline or banning new lease sales for oil and gas on federal lands won’t meaningfully change the demand for oil and gas.

Instead, transportation will shift to less efficient and riskier modes as transporting oil by rail, truck, or tanker is pricier and carries a higher likelihood of spillsFurther, production will shift to other countries with laxer environmental standards. Rather than exporting oil and natural gas, we’ll be exporting investment, jobs, and more pollution, too.

Fortunately, federal ownership of land doesn’t affect Pennsylvania’s energy future as much as it does Western states. Other heavy-handed regulations coming from Washington can and will. A better approach, economically and environmentally, would empower Pennsylvanians to control their energy future for the betterment of the U.S. and the world.