Some Pennsylvanians may frown upon natural gas for being a fossil fuel, but those connected to the industry say it is beneficial to the economy and the environment.
“Our country and our state have made very good progress in lowering CO2 emissions specifically and emphatically from the power sector, and increased use of natural gas is the prime reason for that,” says David Callahan, president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. “Pollutants tracked on a regular basis have dropped precipitously thanks to increased use of natural gas.”
President Joe Biden and Gov. Tom Wolf, both Democrats, are pushing alternative energy platforms such as wind and solar, which they contend will fight climate change.
“Pennsylvania has been a national energy leader for more than 100 years,” Wolf said in May after announcing a plan for government buildings to use more solar power. “As we continue to diversify our grid with clean renewable sources of energy, we want to maintain Pennsylvania’s leadership position and bring the associated economic, health, and environmental benefits to all Pennsylvanians.”
The Sierra Club even has a Beyond Natural Gas campaign to promote transitioning away from natural gas and other fossil fuels.
“Like coal, natural gas is incredibly harmful to our environment, our health, and our economy,” the Sierra Club said in its materials. “It still exacerbates climate change, pollutes the air, wreaks environmental devastation, hurts the economy, and interferes with the deployment of renewable energy sources that are ready to go.”
However, as more turbines and panels become part of the power grid itself, Callahan said natural gas and its ability to fire up quickly and provide very reliable and resilient service to the grid becomes even more important.
The Marcellus Shale lies under the Appalachian Basin and spreads across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky.
“The shale play is one of the largest in terms of geographic area, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates the formation’s total area to be around 95,000 square miles, ranging in depth from 4,000 to 8,000 feet,” the American Petroleum Institute (API) wrote. “The Marcellus Shale contains approximately 410 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and could supply U.S. consumers’ energy needs for hundreds of years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”
Meanwhile, revenues from Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact fee have generated nearly $1.7 billion since 2012, directly benefiting all 67 counties. Tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs have also been created, something that benefits not just the lives of Marcellus Shale workers but their communities.
“Let’s not forget that our world is touched, whether it’s in the medical community, the homebuilding community, etc. by plastics and the things that are made from natural gas and natural gas liquids,” Callahan noted. “We have that domestic industry in Pennsylvania and in the Appalachian region and it keeps costs low. It keeps our lives progressing.”
It has even helped medical workers treat patients for and combat COVID-19.
“I don’t know where we would be without the plastic syringes for the inoculations, the breathing tubes, medical apparatus in general,” said Callahan.
Natural gas and the industry will be on display September 28-30 at the Shale Insight 2021 Conference in Erie.
“It’s a learning opportunity, it’s a showcase for the energy industry, and it’s much, much more,” said Callahan.