I am not a cheerleader for the natural gas industry. I expect them to be the professionals that they are. I expect them to be the good corporate citizens that they are. I am a cheerleader for us. I am a cheerleader for southwestern Pennsylvania. And I am a cheerleader for America. If you love America, Pennsylvania and us, you must support the industry that is going to develop and sustain our children’s future…and the future of our nation. America’s balance of trade in natural gas liquids is improving dramatically. That is good news for us.
By the way, I am a big cheerleader for the use of renewables as part of an overall equation to generate electricity. But renewables such as wind and solar cannot sustain us alone. They’re still expected to provide less than one third of all electricity, even in 30 years out. Natural gas must be part of the energy equation. That’s good news for us. Whether it is natural gas, windmills or solar panels, our infrastructure must be addressed.
Infrastructure’s Role In Economic Development
Infrastructure is critical component of our region’s economic development plan. The future of our nation hinges on energy independence. Global economic and natural security questions are driven by it. Nationally, businesses forecast and plan production and revenue keeping a close eye on what is happening in the energy sector. That means they are watching us. We are at the very heart of the American quest for energy independence.
The shale revolution underway in the United States is not an accident. Right here in Greene and Washington counties, we are helping drive the global economy and secure our nation’s future. The natural gas industry, upstream development, midstream processing and pipelines, downstream refining, depends on infrastructure expansion to create access to global markets. What does this infrastructure look like?
By now, everyone has heard about the Royal Dutch Shell, $6 billion Cracker Plant in Beaver County. This state-of-the-art ethane cracker will have the capacity to produce 1.5 metric tons of ethane output annually. The cracker is a plant that takes oil and gas and breaks it into smaller molecules, to create ethylene, which is used in plastics manufacturing. This is easily the largest construction project in the region, and it is one of the largest in the nation. And with the downstream opportunities it creates, it is easily the leading economic driver in the region.
Did you know that along our most important infrastructure, the Monongahela River, there is a $2.7 billion construction project underway that is changing the face of our region? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expanding capacity and replacing lock systems in Charleroi and Braddock and eliminating the Elizabeth lock. This project greatly enhances the navigability of our river and accommodate increased commercial and industrial barge traffic. Did I mention that the site selectors working with Shell chose the Monaca site largely because of the direct access to Ohio River?
Infrastructure, whether it is pipeline, highway, rail or river, is crucial to move our most abundant resource, natural gas, to meet the nation’s demand. Pipelines running through Greene and Washington counties will help move the product to market, enhance downstream industries and make our region a global economic powerhouse. The pipeline and infrastructure projects currently underway and planned in the region will help foster development across the Appalachian Basin. That is good news for us.
Job Creation Is Key
In our region, economic development is defined is simple terms…job creation. There is strength in that theory. When manufacturing comes to our region to be close to our natural gas feedstock, and access to our river, they will need people. What are we doing about job growth? In Greene County for example, the United Mine Workers of America Career Center, as well as over 20 regional trades offering joint apprenticeship programs are helping to maintain a highly skilled workforce.
We must be cheerleaders for our region, and each other. When a company locates a facility in Greene County benefits Washington County as well, and vice versa. We must be cheerleaders for the industries that are working with us to create jobs and opportunities to drive our economic renaissance. Together we are better. We must be cheerleaders for us.