Stephanie Catarino Wissman: Natural gas is fundamental to bringing manufacturing back to Pennsylvania.


Not so long ago, the United States depended on unstable regimes for natural gas and oil. Now, the United States is the largest producer of natural gas and oil in the world, thanks in large part to the shale revolution and the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. This local energy now supports 11.3 million jobs nationwide, nearly 500,000 right here in Pennsylvania, and contributes more than $1.6 trillion to the US economy.

At the same time, this energy renaissance has helped strengthen America’s manufacturing industry, support our economy, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

I recently testified before the Pennsylvania House Energy and Environmental Resources Committee on the importance of natural gas and oil to our modern lives. I explained that it is important that we recognize the role that industry plays in the modern world beyond fuel and power generation.

Natural gas and petroleum are the essential components of everyday products and manufactured goods that make our way of life possible – from clothing to computers and cell phones to pharmaceuticals and packaging, and even cars. electricity, solar panels and wind turbines.

While crude oil is an important feedstock for plastics, natural gas is the main source of hydrocarbons or natural gas liquids like ethane, a main feedstock for plastics and petrochemicals.

Royal Dutch Shell has chosen Potter Township, Beaver County, for its new 386-acre petrochemical complex. When construction is complete this year, this plant is expected to employ around 600 full-time workers and use low-cost ethane from nearby shale gas to make polyethylene, which is used in a wide variety of every day. At one time, the Shell factory was the largest construction site in the United States, supporting around 6,000 jobs.

Historically, these factories have been located on the Gulf Coast. But with robust natural gas development in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region have become more attractive to manufacturers.

The economic opportunities generated by manufacturing facilities are immediate and lasting – more jobs, increased tax revenue and economic development.

About two years ago, at the start of the covid-19 pandemic, essential personal protective equipment, or PPE, much of which was manufactured in China and abroad, was in short supply. The U.S. natural gas and petroleum industry has helped meet the challenge posed by these shortages by producing isopropyl alcohol for hand sanitizers and sanitizing products, our industry has also produced the critical raw materials used to manufacture face masks, hospital gowns and various health care related medical devices and components. .

Considering that the United States imported $128 billion in pharmaceuticals and an estimated $53 billion in medical supplies in 2020, relocating manufacturing and reconsidering global supply chains should be a priority. We have the abundant resources and proximity to major downstream markets to manufacture these products and hundreds more here in Pennsylvania.

Rather than sending jobs and industries overseas, we should encourage domestic production in Pennsylvania. And it starts with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels adopting a legislative and regulatory framework that promotes economic development, attracts businesses to Pennsylvania, and supports home energy production and infrastructure expansion. . It is also essential to maintain a level playing field that encourages innovation in all technologies, including natural gas and oil.

Innovations in the natural gas and petroleum industry have also made America a global leader in reducing emissions, with Pennsylvania helping lead the world toward a low-carbon future. In fact, according to the US Energy Information Administration, the country has seen the lowest levels of carbon emissions in a generation, with carbon emissions from power generation in Pennsylvania dropping 40% between 2005 and 2019 through the transition to cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as advances in energy efficiency.

Methane emission rates have also decreased. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration, average methane intensity has declined nearly 60% in major U.S. producing regions, including Appalachia, from 2011 to 2020.

Advancing environmental progress while meeting increased energy and feedstock demand for plastics, petrochemicals, PPE, and other products requires energy policies that support domestic natural gas and oil production. No country is better positioned than the United States to provide reliable, responsibly produced energy. Relentless American innovation has enabled incredible progress that we must continue to build on.

Stephanie Catarino Wissman is executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania.


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