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DOE Report Stresses Importance of Appalachian Shale Production to COVID Recovery

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The energy-rich Appalachian region is on the cusp of an “energy and petrochemical renaissance,” according to a recently-released Department of Energy report.

Praising the magnitude of the shale gas revolution in the Appalachian Basin in the past decade, a region that has accounted for 85 percent of the growth in U.S. natural gas production during the same period, the report highlights the need for continued investments in public infrastructure, workforce development and innovation:

“There are three areas where public sector investment is critical: (1) creating a pro-growth business environment, (2) developing public infrastructure, and (3) supporting workforce development. In addition, government has an important role to communicate the economic opportunity to help mobilize and align public- and private-sector efforts.”

Natural gas produced in the Appalachian region supplies manufacturers and industries with a reliable supply of energy as long as they can access it. Ensuring future supplies of natural gas means investing in energy infrastructure, the report concludes, noting that several major pipeline projects have faced significant delays due to regulatory and permitting concerns and encouraging continued streamlining of the federal permitting process.

Area industry groups already realize the need for continued investment in energy infrastructure, noting that the natural gas produced in the Appalachian Basin can be shipped elsewhere. As Ohio Southeast Economic Development President Mike Jacoby said:

“This remarkable transformation does not happen without supporting policies and  infrastructure. The commodities could easily just be piped elsewhere. If our region is going to reap the economic benefits of these resources long-term, we need comprehensive policies.”

The DOE also recommended the expansion of workforce development efforts, including education and training opportunities, and investments in research and development, both areas that will support the future growth of the industry.

Though much of the report was drafted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn, the report’s authors expressed their confidence in the industry in a foreword noting:

“[A] major component of the United States economic recovery will be the abundance of reliable, affordable energy to enable United States manufacturing and other sectors of the economy to reignite the pre-pandemic boom.”

The DOE’s bullish attitude is shared by state officials and industry representatives from around the region, who see the affordable, reliable shale oil as a key to the post-pandemic recovery. As Pa. Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Bar explained:

“Time and again, Pennsylvania’s business leaders and workers have come together to make the best use of our state’s diverse natural resources to power this nation in times of war and peace. “Now, as we look to recover from the pandemic and re-shore American manufacturing, this report makes abundantly clear the Appalachian Basin is perfectly suited to be a cornerstone of making that strategy a reality and to position America for long-term economic and environmental success.”

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