Natural Gas is Bringing “U.S. Manufacturing Back to Life”

Shuttered factories left for gone are reopening; companies are bringing operations back to America; and manufacturers are hiring locally, thanks in large part to clean-burning, safely-produced domestic natural gas. This industrial resurgence has been rightly termed a “a game changer” by economists, who note that America’s “manufacturing’s future is getting brighter,” as NPR reports yesterday under the headline “Cheap Natural Gas Pumping New Life Into U.S. Factories.”

We absolutely agree. And poll after poll demonstrates that the American people do as well. In fact, a new Gallup poll released this week shows that a clear majority of Americans support natural gas. It’s also clear that shale gas is transforming America’s energy future.

More from yesterday’s NPR story:

The millions of Americans who lost factory jobs over the past decade may find this hard to believe, but U.S. manufacturing is coming back to life. The chest compressions are applied by the pumping of cheap, domestic natural gas. “We are entering a new era,” says economist Jerry Jasinowski, a former president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

The [shale gas] “manufacturing renaissance” theory has broad support, both from business leaders and from most economists. They say manufacturing’s future is getting brighter because of “fracking” – an increasingly popular drilling technique used to recover natural gas from shale formations. Fracking is helping guarantee factory owners access to cheap, reliable and abundant energy sources. People landing fracking-related jobs have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years. But many more workers are quietly finding paychecks in factories as manufacturers start to take advantage of lower natural gas prices.

That difference “is a game changer,” said Craig Alexander, chief economist from TD Bank Financial Group. “There’s no question we are seeing a renaissance in manufacturing because…the cost advantage has shifted to the United States.” … Hiring may pick up even more as ships, trains and trucks start converting to natural gas. That widely expected conversion will give domestic manufacturers yet another competitive edge as transportation costs fall.

So why, for example, is New York – which ranks fifth in natural gas consumption among U.S. states – continuing to say no to natural gas production and it’s clear benefits? No good, scientifically-based reason really. Former Pennsylvania governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell underscores this reality in compelling, fact-based New York Daily News column this week, urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to move forward with safe, tightly-regulated natural gas development.

This from Governor Rendell’s column:

Natural gas has an important role to play in the Northeast region and in our nation’s overall energy future. It’s already creating new opportunities for consumers and businesses and promoting economic growth in a range of sectors — all while reducing environmental impacts. … If we choose to embrace natural gas, it will help us get past a number of significant economic and environmental challenges. On the other hand, if we let fear carry the day, we will squander another key moment to move forward together. … Natural gas results in great jobs for hardworking Americans, cleaner air, more affordable energy and more efficient use of our domestic energy resources.

As the former Democratic governor of a major natural gas-producing state, I know we can enjoy the benefits of gas production while also protecting the environment. Pennsylvania put in place strong oversight while allowing development throughout the Marcellus Shale — and the economic benefits were significant. Thousands of solid jobs with good salaries were created, communities came back to life and investment in the state soared. The steel, lumber, concrete and construction industries, as well as manufacturing purchases and retail spending, all benefited from the ensuing natural gas boom. According to economic research firm IHS, shale gas contributed about $7 billion to Pennsylvania’s gross domestic product. And, the study says, that number will double in 2015. It is tremendously important that the economic benefits of energy production stay right here in America — that they go to domestic companies, workers and landholders, rather than to places like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, which together account for a sizable percentage of all our imported oil.

We must push for natural gas development with appropriate oversight and regulation. But most importantly, we must push forward. The benefits, the environment, our citizens and our energy security are just too great to ignore.

Governor Rendell’s thoughtful, fact-based comments come on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address remarks about this abundant, homegrown energy source, where he reinforced the fact “the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.” Likewise, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg understands the clear benefits of American natural gas, which is Powering an American Revolution.

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