Summer’s on the horizon and with it comes the promise of new beginnings — as college students receive their degrees and seniors walk the stage and embark upon their future. It’s an exciting and somewhat scary time of year filled with a mix of emotions over what these young adults will do with the rest of their lives. For the proud parents of these students in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, some of the anxiety for their children has been lessened in recent years with the rise of natural gas development and the jobs it has brought along with it.
I have walked across those stages three times in my life, and each was a little scarier and more stressful than the one before. When I graduated from Dallas High School in Luzerne Co., I knew I was ready to start anew at Lock Haven Univ. But I was terrified at the same time for the move and everything anyone facing their freshman year of college feels.
That was nothing compared to receiving my Bachelor’s degree, though, when I had been told for four years about the decline of newspapers and in 2008, let’s face it–jobs in Communication were few and far between, unless you were willing to move out of rural Pennsylvania and into a big city like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Even our commencement speaker that year was less than sanguine about what was to come next: with a tough economy and bleak job outlook, the truth was: even with a degree, many of us would have trouble finding work.
So I went on to get a Master’s from Lock Haven in the hopes that I could ride out the storm. I remember walking across the stage so proud of what I had accomplished and returning to my seat to thinking, “Ok. Now what?” It took me a full year to realize the potential of the natural gas industry springing up all around me and with that the realization I had been ignoring a market that was advancing despite everything we’d been told about the region. I jumped in with both feet, taking a Fit 4 Natural Gas course through Pennsylvania CareerLink and ShaleNet at Pennsylvania College of Technology, and with no regrets, have never looked back.
Now I have had the remarkable opportunity to stay in my home community in Lycoming County, while much of my high school class is scattered across the state and country, having moved where the jobs were. I count myself blessed to be a part of our region’s new reality–and a promising one at that.
Our New Reality
This new reality is an exciting one for recent grads. It means there are jobs available, right here in the Northern Tier, whether you want to work in the natural gas industry or not. As I sat at Hughesville’s graduation ceremony Friday night, eagerly awaiting my sister’s walk across that stage, the loudspeaker told of each of the new grads’ future plans. Some were off to college, to study things like petroleum and environmental engineering, geology, chemistry, and the like. Others were off to apprenticeship programs — from there, they’d soon be welders, electricians, and operators of heavy machinery. Back when I graduated high school, there was no talk about pursuing a career in the oil and natural gas industry. On Friday? It was all the talk.
I’d say nearly a third of her class was going directly into the workforce. And though it’s just a guess, my bet is that many of these young men and women will be looking to the natural gas industry to find employment in the near future. And with an average salary of $76,000 without secondary education, why wouldn’t they consider this option? Here are some of the many reasons why I feel confident in making such an assumption.
This comes from the Marcellus Shale Coalition — What They’re Saying American Natural Gas “Offers Hope In Hard Times”
Fmr. Pa. Gov., Phila. Mayor and DNC Chairman Ed Rendell: This influx of jobs and investment spurred an unprecedented economic boom for our state and, thanks to a resource found right here in Pennsylvania, this economic revitalization continues. Cheap, clean, and abundant energy is available to heat our homes, fuel our cars and trucks, and power our state’s economy. It’s not a campaign slogan, it’s reality. … While improved air quality and savings at the pump are key advantages of natural-gas vehicles (NGVs), the most critical benefit is our increased economic, energy, and national security. America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our citizens and our economy in jeopardy. Year after year, as OPEC continues to raise the price of oil, we cannot afford to continue relying on unstable, undemocratic regimes to provide our energy. Natural gas offers a solution, an American solution, produced right here in Pennsylvania. … Despite these overwhelming benefits, there is a misunderstanding that residents must make a choice between protecting the environment and ensuring the dependable production of sufficient energy for power generation and transportation. This is a false choice. Pennsylvania can have both. … Natural gas can foster an economic, environmental, and security revitalization for our country and our state. (Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, 6/3/12)
· Pa. DEP Secretary Michael Krancer: Our ability to unlock the huge clean burning energy source contained in unconventional shale formations has transformed Pennsylvania into an energy exporter and will ultimately move our nation toward energy self-sufficiency. In addition, we are looking at an economic and energy transformation. We have already seen tens of thousands of new jobs here in Pennsylvania from the industry itself as well as from new industries spawned to support it. These are good paying career jobs in many fields. And that is just the start. There will be hundreds of thousands more good paying skilled and unskilled jobs in a variety of sectors. (Congressional testimony, 5/31/12)
· “America’s Shale-Gas Revolution Offers Hope in Hard Times”: The story of America’s shale-gas revolution offers hope in hard times. … America’s shale-gas industry has since drilled 20,000 wells, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, and provided lots of cheap gas. This is a huge advantage to American industry and a relief to those who fret about American energy security. … America’s emissions have fallen by 450m tonnes in the past five years, more than any other country’s. (The Economist, 6/2/12)
· “Shale Gas Boom Could Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to U.S., Economists Say”: The shale gas boom hitting Ohio, Pennsylvania and several other states could provide a major advantage to manufacturers in the United States — cheap energy that could significantly cut the costs to produce goods here, a group of economists said Thursday. “By 2025, the manufacturing sector alone could save $11.5 billion in energy costs,” Robert McCutcheon, an economist with consulting group PwC, said at a manufacturing summit hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. McCutcheon’s company, formerly called PriceWaterhouseCoopers, released a study late last year predicting that as many as 1 million new U.S. manufacturing jobs could come from lower-cost energy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/1/12)
· American Natural Gas Has Had an “Astonishing” Economic Impact, “Continues to Amaze”: America’s “unconventional” gas boom continues to amaze. … America’s gas boom confers a huge economic advantage. It has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly. And it has rejuvenated several industries, including petrochemicals, where ethane produced from natural gas is a feedstock. … This is astonishing. Barely five years ago America was expected to be a big gas importer. Between 2000 and 2010 it built infrastructure to regasify over 100 billion cubic metres (bcm) of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG). Yet in 2011 American LNG imports were less than 20 bcm. … So long as well-shafts are properly sealed, there is hardly any risk that fracking will poison groundwater. (The Economist, 6/2/12)
· Marcellus Shale Creating Blue-Collar Union Jobs in Western Pa.: Two skilled laborers toil around an automated pipe-cutting machine at Chapman Corp.’s new $6.6 million pipe fabrication shop, using laser precision technology that cuts the man-hours for a job from a full day to a half-hour. Nearby a custom-built “shake and bake” paint room allows the company to reduce the time it takes to paint pipelines for the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry from two days to eight hours or less, said Ron Delsandro, shop coordinator. “We can get that order out a day sooner,” Delsandro said Friday when the Washington-based company held an open house for the new shop, which is as long as two football fields. That’s how much of a demand there to meet the pipeline needs of the gas and oil industry, which is booming across Washington and Greene counties. (Washington Observer-Reporter, 6/1/12)
· Clean-Burning Natural Gas Boosts Family Farmers: The oil and gas boom in western Pennsylvania has provided a much-needed infusion of capital to farmers in that area, members of the Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau learned during a trip to the Keystone State on Tuesday. “It’s had mostly a good impact,” said Steve Quillin, local Farm Bureau president. “Just driving around, we saw farmers making improvements and updates to their properties.” Money from oil and gas leases has allowed agriculture to expand, added Jerry Lahmers, chairman of the policy development committee for the organization. … The boom has benefited others beside farmers. Quillin said the owner of the restaurant where they ate lunch has seen his business triple in the past year.The oil and gas boom in western Pennsylvania has provided a much-needed infusion of capital to farmers in that area, members of the Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau learned during a trip to the Keystone State on Tuesday.“It’s had mostly a good impact,” said Steve Quillin, local Farm Bureau president. “Just driving around, we saw farmers making improvements and updates to their properties.” (New Philadelphia Times Reporter, 6/2/12)
· American Natural Gas Creating Local Jobs: Low-cost natural gas also produces cheap fertilizer for farmers, thus lowering food prices, and feedstock for chemical plants, for cheaper plastics and other basic materials. Industries can now return to the United States and provide jobs locally. (Washington Times op-ed, 5/29/12)
· “Phila. Gas Works Lowers Prices To Natural Gas Customers”: Good news for PGW natural gas customers: your monthly bill is going down. The Philadelphia Gas Works is lowering the price of natural gas by 2½ percent, and that should save the average customer more than $34 per year, according to spokesman Barry O’Sullivan. “Supply right now is abundant.” … O’Sullivan says this is the fifth quarter in a row without a rate increase, and compared to this time last year the average customer is paying $181 less for natural gas. (CBS Philly, 6/1/12)
· More Natural Gas Jobs En Route to the Rust Belt: A natural-gas processing hub being developed in a partnership between Chesapeake Midstream Development, M3 Midstream and EV Energy Partners will be located on state Route 151 northwest of Scio, a North Township trustee has told Harrison County commissioners. … The hub will receive and process natural-gas liquids, such as propane and butane, that are being extracted from Ohio’s Utica Shale. The facility is expected to be one of the largest of its kind in eastern Ohio and will create 50 to 125 jobs. (New Philadelphia Times Reporter, 6/1/12)
· Building a Strong Local Workforce: Gas companies and the people who want to work for them packed the Wyoming County Fairgrounds Friday for the inaugural Business, Job and Gas Expo. The Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce has held annual job fairs for more than a decade and three years ago began hosting a yearly natural gas expo to connect local businesses and the emerging drilling industry, but this year’s fair was the first to unite the two concepts. … “When we’re looking for employees we are finding folks who are locals who have the skills,” said Helen Humphreys of gas-infrastructure company Williams. “As I look forward from two years ago there’s been a tremendous amount of collaboration between education and the industry.” (Times Leader, 6/2/12)
Good Luck to All of You
Whether you earned your college degree this spring, are about to start a new journey at a college or trade school in the fall, or are going to start earning a salary now, good luck to you. The Class of 2012 has options the Class of 2004 only dreamed of, right here at home, and each of you awaits a promising future. It will be an exciting journey, no doubt, and those of us members of your family, friends and other support systems, will watch with pride as you take on the many challenges facing America today and become a part of the solutions.