MSC in Pittsburgh Business Times: Stick with an energy solution that’s already working

Working to outflank one another, politicians – including many vying for the White House – have put forth lofty promises and bumper sticker goals on America’s energy policy.

Lost in the political bluster is a solution that’s already working: American natural gas – the clean, low-cost resource found in abundance across Appalachia.

While natural gas may not be flashy, represent radical thinking or require a Green New Deal overhaul of our entire way of life, it has allowed the U.S. to get its arms around climate challenges without sacrificing good-paying jobs or throttling back the nation’s economic engine.

All too often, however, this practical policy solution is cast aside for energy policies created out of lofty, unrealistic political platitudes that result in harmful outcomes. In New York, for example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy blockade has long starved the region of economic opportunity, and now areas of the state are facing moratoriums on new gas connections to customers.

Earlier this year, building construction in Westchester, a county north of New York City, came to a grinding halt as a lack of natural gas supply – due to Cuomo’s actions to block safe natural gas pipeline expansions – forced developers to put projects on hold.

Natural gas supply constraints are one of the primary reasons New England has the highest average electricity costs in the continental U.S., according to federal data. And families living in public housing in New York City struggle with access to heat and hot water, especially during winter months, according to Danny Barber, head of the Citywide Council of Presidents of New York City Housing Authority tenants’ association.

Wood Mackenzie, in fact, estimates that fully implementing the Green New Deal would cost each American household $35,000. Awash in clean, affordable energy, dramatic, radical energy policies unnecessarily burden hard-working families with massive costs and jeopardize the reliability of the electrical grid.

Pennsylvania, the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer, is at the tip of the spear in realizing the broad environmental and economic benefits of America’s shale revolution.

Our state’s top environmental regulator, Patrick McDonnell, told lawmakers in February that “we were already well on our way” to achieving the Obama-era Clean Power Plan targets “and have actually since met those proposed goals primarily because of the shift toward cleaner natural gas.”

More than $13 billion of private capital is being invested to construct 20 modern, highly efficient combined cycle natural gas power plants in Pennsylvania. Our region’s building trades can be credited with the construction of many of these facilities, and our industry is proud to have forged a partnership keeping union halls at full employment.

As more local natural gas is used to heat and power our homes, families are realizing $1,100 – $2,200 on average in annual home energy savings, according to Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission data. Over the course of the past decade, natural gas prices for end-use customers in Pennsylvania – like homes, schools, hospitals and manufacturers – are down between 56 percent and 76 percent.

And lower heating prices generated from American energy abundance is literally savings lives, as an analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research released this year concluded “the drop in natural gas prices … induced largely by the boom in shale gas production, averted 11,000 winter deaths per year in the U.S.”

From Erie to Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians want the same things: good-paying jobs, a steady or growing economy, a healthy environment and opportunity for future generations. This is exactly what natural gas delivers.

Neither a transport nor a bridge fuel, natural gas is a destination fuel that has a vital part to play in how we continue to power our modern world. As a leading energy and advanced technology hub, Pittsburgh is well-positioned to leverage our region’s clean natural gas abundance as the engine that moves our economy forward while achieving substantial environmental progress.

David Spigelmyer is president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Click Here to view the op-ed as it appeared on the Pittsburgh Business Times website.