To see the trickery groups opposed to traditional energy and infrastructure spin – and how they falsely pit our country’s natural resources against our collected desire for a cleaner environment, is often a site to behold.
In truth, most of us know that we need all resources — conventional and renewable — to meet our growing energy needs, and that we must do so while achieving environmental goals.
To illustrate this point, look no further than the ongoing resistance to a pair of much-needed facilities in the nation’s Appalachian region.
There, the anti-development group Food & Water Watch (FWW) falsely claimed in a report that because cleaner-burning natural gas is so affordable — courtesy of abundant supplies from record production of the next-door Marcellus Shale — energy producers and petrochemical manufacturers have plotted a corrupt strategy to increase prices.
The alleged plan? Build more pipelines and facilities to take advantage of readily available and low-cost natural gas — like the Shell petrochemical complex in Beaver County and Appalachian Storage Hub in Monroe County, Ohio — to “sop up” supplies. Ironically, the deep-pocketed FWW, funded by out-of-state activists, alleges it’s all about the money.
The reality for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia — and the nation — is it’s about bringing back lost economic opportunities and family-sustaining jobs to a region that fell on historically hard times just a few years back.
When the steel industry shuttered, and the manufacturing sector declined, countless households there struggled to get by and make ends meet. Many were confronted with decisions no family should make, like whether to pay the rent or mortgage bill or fast-rising utility and gasoline costs.
Thousands, understandably, fled. Those who stayed faced grim employment possibilities in the ensuing years.
That’s all changed. Local energy development has powered a resurgence. Thousands are back at work, and communities have sprung back to life. Industries dependent on affordable, domestically-made energy have been restored, and local unions once in dire need of work are flooded with requests. Jobs are multiplying, and foot traffic at storefronts, restaurants, hotels and small businesses is up.
Meanwhile, regional household energy costs are lower. So are expenses for manufacturers.
Beaver County, in Pennsylvania, is a microcosm of this turnaround. The county, according to a recent study from Washington and Jefferson College, could see 7,400 jobs from the Shell complex. These types of figures were unconceivable a few years ago.
What’s more, the analysis, citing prior plants in other locations nationally, concluded that residents in counties with cracker plants earn more than those without.
This is the kind of economic U-turn only local energy development and infrastructure expansion can generate.
Just look at other pockets of the nation where home-grown energy development is a way of life. In Texas, consumers saved nearly $60 billion in energy costs over a 10-year period. In Colorado, they saved almost $12.4 billion. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, families and businesses saved more than $75 billion collectively.
To keep this going, the region must safely and responsibly embrace every opportunity. That includes constructing these two facilities and expanding pipelines, which are 4.5 times safer and statistically less risky than other transportation means.
Key fact: The nation’s striking gains in air quality — the U.S. reduced its carbon emissions by 0.5 percent in 2017, the most of all major countries, according to the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and emissions from large power plants have declined 19.7 percent since 2011, according to federal data — are a direct outcome of having a balanced energy policy and a network of crisscrossing pipelines that bring energy to where it’s needed.
It also includes ignoring one-sided, extreme anti-development groups like FWW, who want to take away the resources that spearheaded the nation’s historic turnaround without offering realistic solutions as to how we meet our fast-growing energy demand safely and affordably and continue our record pace of job creation and economic growth, all while sustaining our global leadership environmentally.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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