Commentary: Shale revolution fulfills promise

While the daily headlines and nonstop, 24-hour news cycles focus overwhelmingly on issues that often divide the nation, it can be easy to lose sight of where common ground exists and what shared commitments bring us together.

And there’s more that unites us — business and labor as well as Republicans, Democrats and Independents — than divides us. While division might drive TV ratings and social media clicks, it’s no secret that all Americans support a stronger economy with low unemployment; a thriving manufacturing sector that grows middle-class jobs for working families; and a healthier, cleaner environment for our kids and grandkids.

America’s shale revolution is advancing once unthinkable progress as it relates to the nation’s shared energy, environment, economic and security objectives. And, as President Barack Obama has said, “We need to encourage” domestic natural-gas development and its broad benefits.

Advancing common-sense policies that view our clean-burning natural-gas resources as significant assets, rather than a liability, will allow our nation to continue to lead the world in air-quality improvements, all while creating hundreds of thousands of good-paying middle-class jobs, many for our nation’s building and union trades as well as across our manufacturing sector.

But don’t take it from me. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to America’s top position as the world’s largest oil and natural-gas producer, has emphasized that the shale revolution holds “enormous” promise in jump-starting American manufacturing once again.

She’s absolutely right. Thanks to shale, American manufacturers have gained the competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace and are expanding, adding more shifts and hiring more workers to produce “Made in America” goods once again. In fact, shale development will drive the creation of 930,000 domestic manufacturing jobs by 2030 and 1.41 million by 2040.

And these natural-gas-driven American manufacturing jobs, as the president has stated, are “the quintessential middle-class job.”

Look no further than the Marcus Hook complex in Southeast Pennsylvania as a key example of manufacturing’s comeback. Marcus Hook has been transformed from a shuttered plant into a bustling petrochemical refining, storage and export facility that supports thousands of local jobs. This positive, middle-class and economic progress does not occur without the development of natural gas from the Marcellus shale.

But we need more pipelines to move our abundant natural-gas resources to market so that we fully capitalize on our nation’s newfound manufacturing potential. These critical projects are “a lifeline to family-supporting jobs,” as the Laborers International Union of North America’s Dennis Martire has said.

And just as Americans want more jobs and a stronger economy, they also want clean air and a healthy environment. With natural gas, we can have both. It’s a false choice to suggest otherwise.

For the first time since the industrial revolution, and as a result of greater natural-gas use, carbon emissions have begun to decouple from economic growth, meaning that America’s economy can expand without increasing carbon emissions, The New York Times reported in April. This significant progress came on the heels of federal data confirming that America leads the world in carbon-emission reductions, thanks in large part to the greater use of clean-burning, domestically produced natural gas.

No single policy or party platform can address all of America’s complex energy and environmental challenges and needs.

But given the broad economic, environmental and national-security benefits of natural gas, it would be a mistake for the next president to not ensure that policies encourage — rather than discourage — the safe development of clean-burning natural gas, which supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs and is perhaps the single most effective tool to enhance our air quality.