The acclaimed “Think About Energy Briefing” series made its first stop in Carlisle, Pa., on Thursday, April 24, 2019. With Pennsylvania natural gas production topping 6 trillion cubic feet in 2018, new natural gas-fueled power plants continuing to come online in the commonwealth, residential natural gas prices down roughly 30 percent since 2008, there was plenty on the session’s agenda.
This most recent installment of the nearly six-year-running program also included Congressman Scott Perry (PA-10). This marked Congressman Perry’s first time addressing a Think About Energy audience.
Hosted by the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce, the event examined all aspects of the natural gas industry, and the role of natural gas in Pennsylvania and the country’s energy future.
George Stark of Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation introduced the session, explaining the focus was truly to think about where our energy comes from. Stark provided a brief overview of Cabot’s operations in Northeast Pennsylvania, specifically Susquehanna County. He also stressed the importance of affordable and reliable energy is to our economy and way of life.
“Cabot only produces natural gas in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and as a company, we’re the country’s fifth largest natural gas producer,” Stark said. “Cabot’s Pennsylvania-produced natural gas is improving our air quality, economy, and it’s even powering Japan – this is the conversation we’re having today.”
Stark went on to discuss Pennsylvania’s natural gas revolution over the past decade, technology innovation, community investment, environmental benefits, new revenue for royalty owners and much more.
Steve Cook of UGI Utilities highlighted UGI’s growth over the past decade, commensurate with the state’s robust natural gas production. “UGI is seeing a high demand for natural gas,” said Cook. “In recent years, we’ve added 14,000 to 18,000 new customers each year. And this year we’re also expecting to provide gas service to six combined heat and power installations and three new compressed natural gas fueling stations.”
Cook also highlighted the company efficiency rebate offerings, which have totaled more than $7 million for customers. “Efficiency saves energy and reduces costs, a win-win,” Cook said.
David Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, discussed the economic contribution of Pennsylvania’s manufacturers, power generation and electricity markets, the petrochemical sector, state energy policy and more.
“For many manufacturers, energy is their number one cost input,” said Taylor. “So, Pennsylvania’s natural gas revolution is tremendously exciting for our industry and for the future of the entire commonwealth.”
Taylor went on to observe a shift in society’s recognition of where energy and electricity comes from.
“People flick the switch and they think they’ve turned the lights on, when all you did is close a circuit that an electrician built in your home, to connect you to lines that the lineman strung, to connect you to the power plant that is fueled and staffed, and of course all those things had to be made and built and we’ve stopped thinking about that – it’s a significant societal problem,” Taylor said.
Taylor and other speakers also addressed efforts to add nuclear power to Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.
“As a result of competitive markets for electricity, Pennsylvania’s electric costs are 5 to 8 percent below of national average,” said Taylor. He noted that during the shift to competitive markets, Pennsylvania allowed electric generators to pass on ‘stranded costs’ to ratepayers and that nuclear power generators collected $9 billion during the transition to a competitive market.
Taylor went on to discuss efforts in Harrisburg now pushed by the nuclear industry to overturn competitive markets. He explained that proposed legislation would give a mandated carve out of 50 percent of the marketplace to nuclear generators, allow these plants to keep the $9 billion they previously received, and the result would be the loss of electric competition and annual electric bills going up by $500 million or more a year – “I’m against that,” Taylor said.
Batting clean-up, Congressman Scott Perry provided a national and global view of what Pennsylvania and America’s natural gas revolution has meant.
“The natural gas industry has saved half the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania single-handedly,” Congressman Perry said. “The natural gas revolution was fueled by the innovation of the competitive market, not by government picking winners and losers and distorting the market.”
Congressman Perry addressed Russian natural gas fueling New England as he addressed threats to the natural gas industry. The number one threat is lack of new pipelines, followed by threats such as market distortions, the regulatory environment, and the keep it in the ground movement.
“Our great economy, our great lifestyle is dependent on the free flow of low-cost energy, that’s America,” said Perry. “We’re competing globally. We need to be focused on threats.”
Congressman Perry also discussed the Green New Deal, personal property rights, the importance of pipelines and pipeline safety, workforce development, and broader transportation and infrastructure policy.
Read more about the Carlisle Think About Energy Briefing in the Carlisle Sentinel’s coverage: “Congressman Scott Perry: Natural gas the ‘Green New Deal of the last 10 to 15 years’”.