Not long ago, the U.S. was reliant 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 expansion of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
This homegrown energy now supports 11.3 million jobs nationwide, nearly 500,000 right here in Pennsylvania, and contributes more than $1.6 trillion to the U.S. economy. At the same time, this energy renaissance has helped strengthen U.S. manufacturing, bolster our economy and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
I recently testified before the state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on the importance of natural gas and oil to our lives. I explained that it is important that we recognize the role the industry plays in the modern world beyond fuel and producing energy.
Natural gas and oil are the essential components in the everyday products and manufactured goods that make our way of life possible, from clothing to computers and cellphones to pharmaceuticals and packaging, and even electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines.
Royal Dutch Shell selected Potter Township, Beaver County, for its new 386-acre petrochemicals complex. When construction is complete this year, this plant is expected to employ roughly 600 full-time workers and use low-cost ethane from shale gas produced nearby to make polyethylene, which is used in a wide variety of everyday products.
Historically, these plants have been located on the Gulf Coast. But with robust natural gas development in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, Pennsylvania and the Appalachia region have become more attractive to manufacturers.
The economic opportunities generated by manufacturing facilities are immediate and enduring: more jobs, increased tax revenues and economic development.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment, much of which has been manufactured in China and abroad, was in short supply.
America’s natural gas and oil industry helped meet the challenge presented by these shortages by producing isopropyl alcohol for hand sanitizers and disinfectant products. Our industry also produced the critical raw materials used to make masks, hospital gowns and medical devices.
Considering that the United States imported $128 billion worth of pharmaceuticals and roughly $53 billion in medical supplies in 2020, re-shoring manufacturing and reconsidering global supply chains should be a priority.
Rather than sending jobs and industries overseas, we should be encouraging domestic production in Pennsylvania. That starts with policymakers embracing a statutory and regulatory framework that fosters economic development, attracts business to Pennsylvania and supports domestic energy production and infrastructure expansion.
Innovations in the natural gas and oil industry have also made America a global leader in emissions reductions, with Pennsylvania helping lead the world to a lower-carbon future.
In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the nation has seen the lowest levels of carbon emissions in a generation, with carbon emissions from electricity generation in Pennsylvania dropping 40% between 2005 and 2019 from the transition to cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as advancements in energy efficiency.
Methane emission rates have also decreased. According to Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration data, average methane intensity declined by nearly 60% across major U.S. production regions, including Appalachia, from 2011 to 2020.
No country is better positioned to provide reliable, responsibility produced energy than the U.S.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman is executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania.