MSC in Tribune-Review: Natural gas bridges the partisan divide

Presidential elections too often focus on polarizing issues that divide us rather than areas of common ground that bring us together. No matter one’s political views, a thriving economy, sustained job growth with family-supporting wages and benefits, a healthy environment, and our nation’s security will always enjoy broad bipartisan support.

Thankfully with American natural gas, we are achieving these critical goals.

We understand that at all levels of government, those in office or seeking office must weigh political pressures from voters and influencers, and ultimately take positions.

And as energy, environmental and economic policy remain front and center of the political debate, candidates must embrace American natural gas production and use — because without it, we jeopardize the generational progress achieved and the opportunity to further advance essential national priorities.

Consider the shared goal of a cleaner, stronger environment. America’s shale revolution, which rapidly transformed the United States into the world’s largest natural gas and oil producer, has been the single largest driver of emission reductions. Thanks to natural gas, we are achieving cleaner, healthier air while creating jobs and economic growth. These lofty achievements are not in competition but rather are being realized alongside one another, allowing significant climate progress to be made while creating economic prosperity, especially for the middle-class.

Enabled by free market fundamentals along with strong regulations, natural gas is the nation’s top source of electricity production — nearly 40%. That’s great news for America’s energy security and for consumers, but it has also allowed the U.S. to achieve a record decline in energy-related carbon emissions. This historic environmental achievement is the direct result of common-sense policies, not a rigid one-size-fits-all “solution.”

There is simply no other electricity source that can provide the uninterruptible reliability, affordability and climate progress that natural gas delivers. Ignoring natural gas as a cornerstone energy and environmental policy would be shortsighted — and we need not look any further than the recent California experiment for proof.

Green New Deal-styled policies favoring highly intermittent renewable energies eliminate the baseload power that clean, reliable natural gas provides. This irresponsible leap into renewable energy sources for baseload power has resulted in rolling blackouts across California and use curtailments during summer’s hottest days, as the state’s overreliance on wind and solar could not meet surging demand.

The California example should serve as an alarm bell for elected leaders seeking to ram through job-crushing Green New Deal schemes that allow politicians and unelected bureaucrats to pick winners and losers rather than allow the free market to function. Renewable energy development, supported by baseload energy sources like natural gas, coal and nuclear, can work together to meet residential, commercial and industrial electricity loads.

Pennsylvania is a shining example, where we are responsibly producing nearly 20% of America’s clean natural gas needs, driving job growth — especially among skilled building and union trades, quintessential middle-class opportunities — and delivering energy savings to consumers and families, all while protecting and enhancing our environment.

With low-cost natural gas, manufacturing is on the march. In Pennsylvania alone, in-state manufacturers support more than 500,000 jobs and output is up nearly 30% since the Great Recession’s peak, according to National Association of Manufacturers’ data. The skilled union building trades are at full employment thanks to the diverse career opportunities natural gas provides.

And to be clear, Pennsylvania’s exceptional progress has been achieved while adhering to the nation’s toughest regulations which have been modernized to reflect today’s cutting-edge technologies. Our air is cleaner, with emissions of harmful air pollutants plummeting as locally produced natural gas now generates 43% of the state’s electricity, up from just 1% two decades ago.

As Jim Snell, business manager for Philadelphia-based Steamfitters Local 420, has stated: “You cannot be pro-business, pro-worker, pro-middle class or even pro-environment if you support halting projects that deliver cleaner-burning, low-cost fuel that consumers and manufacturers need.”

We are proud of this progress and look forward to putting a bright spotlight on our shared successes every day, especially at the 10th annual Shale Insight conference that concludes today. We are confident that smart, workable and collaborative energy policies, best practices and new technologies will rise above election year bumper sticker politics. Ensuring continued success for Pennsylvania families and our nation’s future is just too important.

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