By Congressman Joe Pitts
Here in the United States we’ve been presented with a unique opportunity to revitalize our economy. We’re all well aware of how new drilling technology has opened up new sources of natural gas and oil, but a recent economic analysis shows just how widespread the benefits are right now and what they could be in the future.
According to the economic analysis firm IHS, new drilling techniques have already contributed to an increase in disposable income by an average of $1,200 per household. That could rise to $2,000 by 2015 and $3,500 by 2025.
That money doesn’t come in the form of a check, so you may not see that benefit in a line item in your budget. It comes in myriad ways. First of all, in reduced costs for electricity and gasoline. Second, many Americans will have new jobs tied directly to new energy sources. Finally, the reduced cost of natural gas and oil makes a number of the products we purchase less expensive. These benefits may be hidden, but that doesn’t make them any less real.
We’ve seen a lot of new jobs in Pennsylvania related to the energy boom, many of them here in our own community. I’ve personally visited an engineering firm and a company that makes water tanks that both have expanded their business in recent years.
Penn State detailed the industries in our state directly benefiting from natural gas development. The industrial sector is the biggest recipient since it directly uses gas. However, retail, construction, and eating and drinking establishments are also direct beneficiaries of new growth.
According to IHS one sector that could grow especially fast in the coming years is energy-related chemicals. Right now, there are about 53,000 jobs in this industry. By the end of the decade, that could grow by fivefold. More than 300,000 Americans could have one of these jobs by 2025.
Other manufacturing industries rely on these chemicals, making it far more likely that new factories will be built here in the U.S. Believe it or not, some companies are actually bringing production back to America. The Atlantic magazine reported last year about GE’s success in manufacturing water heaters that had previously been built in China. Manufacturing may never be as critical to the American economy as it was 50 years ago, but it can remain an important part of our economy for decades to come.
The essential question Americans face is whether we want a government that sensibly administers development of this industry, or throws up endless roadblocks.
With natural gas, we’ve seen this play out here in Pennsylvania and across the border in New York. Here on our side of the border, drilling has been going on for years with few problems. Pennsylvanians have been benefiting from new jobs and tax revenue without having to give up clean water or air.
Meanwhile, New York is engaged in a completely open ended process of reviewing natural gas drilling. There is no telling when state officials may make up their minds. The Chesapeake energy company paid land owners in New York for the rights to their land years ago. However, because the company has no idea when they might be able to drill, they have decided not to renew the rights.
Development of natural gas is safe and growing even cleaner over time. The New York Times recently reported on new technology that locates small gas leaks, both natural and from human activity. Leaks from human activity can be more easily discovered and stopped now.
If, as a nation, we go the route of New York we will miss out on big opportunities. Right now, Americans have a lead in developing gas and oil from shale because of our technological know how, our innovative spirit, and laws that benefit landowners rather than the government. In many nations, such as China, individual landowners have no right to the resources below their land. Other countries, like France, are throwing up the same endless roadblocks as New York.
We’ve already seen many positive effects of gas and oil development here in our nation and Pennsylvania, but there could be more to come if we keep going down the path we are on now.