Pa. energy growth, economic growth go hand-in-hand

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The Marcellus Shale industry has helped Pennsylvania to become the fourth biggest energy-producing
state in the nation.
The Marcellus Shale industry has helped Pennsylvania to become the fourth biggest energy-producing state in the nation. - (Photo By Amy Spangler)

There is a refreshingly simple and dead-on accurate equation at the heart of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s state energy plan: “Energy = Jobs.”

As Pennsylvania has roared back to its former position as a leading energy producing state, the links between energy, job growth and economic development have never been clearer or more vital.

With a game-changing boost from development of the rich natural gas resources in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, Pennsylvania is now the fourth biggest energy producing state in America. And with record U.S. domestic energy production bringing America closer than ever to energy independence, Pennsylvania’s vast and diverse energy resources make us the second largest energy field in the world.

Pennsylvania went from importing 75 percent of its natural gas just six years ago to being a net exporter of natural gas for the first time in 100 years. Contributions to the state economy from shale gas drilling will have grown by nearly 19 percent annually with job growth averaging 14 percent a year from 2010 through 2015.

The oil and gas sector of the state’s energy industry alone now supports 240,000 core and ancillary jobs. Salaries for the core jobs average $84,388 a year, well above the statewide average of $48,824.

This is in keeping with a nationwide trend. America’s oil and gas producers support more than 10 million jobs – an industry that kept hiring right through the worst months of the 2007-2009 recession and the ongoing slow recovery. In 2011, for example, domestic oil and gas companies created 148,000 new jobs, which was 9 percent of all jobs created in America that year.

The economic law of supply and demand is on our side. Our biggest potential threat comes from laws and regulations that could slow energy-based economic growth to a crawl, here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Chief among these are proposed tax increases on America’s oil and gas producers that the Obama Administration and its allies in Congress keep stubbornly pushing. New energy taxes would be a setback for the national economy, with particular damage to our growing but still fragile economy in Pennsylvania.

Washington lawmakers would be much better off emulating what Pennsylvania is doing, and they could start by reading the state energy plan.

We’re embracing an “all of the above – and below” energy plan. This means we will encourage private industry to develop all of Pennsylvania’s energy resources, including traditional fossil fuels of coal, oil and shale gas and renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass.

A market-based initiative supported by public policy that is both pro-business and pro-environment is making Pennsylvania a leader in all of these energy sources.

The value of this ongoing approach is summarized in the energy plan with the governor’s comment that: “Government cannot be the competitor to business; it must be the partner. It cannot be the adversary; it must be the advocate.”

In Pennsylvania, this practical philosophy is reducing energy costs, attracting new businesses and creating good-paying jobs as energy in the Keystone State has become a growth industry in itself. Progress must be sustained by public policies at the state and federal levels that encourage the kind of public/private cooperation that has brought Pennsylvania this far.

To do otherwise would be a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

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