Energizing America With Natural Gas

Rep. Joe Pitts
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal

When I talk to people in our community about Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources, they tell me two things. First, they believe it’s good for America to be more energy independent. Second, they want hydraulic fracturing to be done cleanly, safely and responsibly.

Natural gas companies know that Pennsylvania is going to be the model for much of the rest of the country. If they don’t do it right here, they will never have the opportunity to work in other states that have been slower to embrace innovative new technologies. New York and Maryland are keeping a close eye on what the commonwealth is doing to keep our environment and drinking water clean.

A few years ago, I visited Dutchland Inc. in Gap. It builds water storage systems and wastewater treatment plants, and it offers its services to natural gas companies. With years of expertise in properly treating water, it can help drillers do the job cleanly.

The booming domestic natural gas and oil industries aren’t just making a handful of energy executives rich; the benefits have quickly filtered to every level of the economy. In the coming years, we will see industries renewed, prices stabilized and new, good jobs created. It’s quite a turnaround from a few years ago.

You may have forgotten, but as recently as five years ago it looked as if the United States would face a growing shortage of natural gas. Some analysts were projecting that we would have to build many new liquefied natural gas facilities to start importing foreign fuel. It seemed inevitable that we would become dependent on other nations for yet another essential resource.

However, since 2008, the residential price of natural gas has come down by around 25 percent. Importantly, this is money in consumers’ pockets. When energy prices are high, it’s people with the least economic resources who suffer the most. Plentiful natural gas means that more people can afford to heat their homes adequately in the cold winter.

While the Marcellus Shale is in the western part of Pennsylvania, our local economy has benefited from increased production. Rettew, an engineering firm in Lancaster, has seen its company grow from 189 to 500 employees in just three years.

Company President Mark Lauriello pointed out how this increase in the firm’s business has helped other Lancaster businesses. Rettew recently spent $4.5 million on a new headquarters constructed with local labor and suppliers. As the firm has grown, it has purchased dozens of new vehicles from local car dealers.

Because natural gas is such an important product, both as a chemical ingredient and as a fuel, American industries are reviving. New jobs are springing up far from the gas fields. Last week, The Washington Post reported that European companies like chemical maker BASF and steelmaker Voestalpine are locating new plants in the United States. Royal Dutch Shell is building a petrochemical plant here in Pennsylvania that will employ as many as 10,000 during construction with hundreds of permanent jobs in the years to come.

Last fall, The Atlantic Monthly had an article about how GE has returned manufacturing of a hot water heater to the U.S. Astonishingly, making this product in the U.S. instead of China actually made it cheaper to build and lowered the price for consumers. One of the biggest factors in bringing back the product was lower energy prices.

In just a short time, we’ve seen amazing economic progress because of the development of natural gas. This simply wouldn’t be possible without modern techniques like directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The Pennsylvania and federal governments have a responsibility to make sure that production is done cleanly, but we also have to make sure that economic growth isn’t restrained.

New jobs and reduced prices for consumers are what we need to fully recover from the recession. These jobs are being created without funds from taxpayers and without more government debt. They are exactly what we need to fuel America and re-energize critical industries in the coming years. That’s something from which every single American can benefit.

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