This week, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor, Peter Thiel, made the case that “fracking represents a bigger economic form of progress for our society as a whole than the innovation in Silicon Valley.”

That’s a powerful statement – and one that’s strongly supported by any number of facts, figures, data, and studies.

Consider the tens-of-thousands of Pennsylvanians – including many building trades union members – who work across the energy industry. Or the families who continue to see energy savings tied directly to natural gas development. And our air quality that continues to make sharp improvements thanks to the greater use of clean, domestic natural gas.

Thanks to natural gas, Pennsylvania’s economy is stronger and our environment is healthier. And we’re still in the early innings of realizing this full energy opportunity.

According to a recent Brookings Institution study, energy and manufacturing drove job growth throughout the Pittsburgh region between 2010 and 2015 – a period that represented the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression no less. From the Post-Gazette:In particular, the boom in shale gas drilling seen across southwestern Pennsylvania accounted for the bulk of the economic progress.”

Consumers, too, are realizing significant energy savings – at the pump and at home – tied directly to shale development. According to the latest report from Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance, “Americans now devote less than 4% of their total annual household spending to energy – the lowest since the government record-keeping begun” thanks to domestic shale growth.

In fact, energy development and pipeline infrastructure create new opportunities for steady jobs, especially among our region’s building trade union workers. As Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai wrote last week in a Post-Gazette op-ed, “expanding the region’s natural gas infrastructure can revitalize our manufacturing sector, which has struggled for far too long.”

A project, for example, like the Mariner East II pipeline, which will transport natural gas liquids produced in western Pennsylvania to the revitalized Marcus Hook complex in Delaware Co., is estimated to generate $4.2 billion in economic impact and support over 30,000 new, Pennsylvania jobs. “It’s not often that a private project comes along that provides the opportunity to offer employment to tens of thousands of Pennsylvania residents, facilitate our state’s economic growth, as well as give our consumers and businesses growing access to affordable, abundant and clean energy sources,” Trish McFarland, Delaware Co. Chamber of Commerce president writes in a recent column.

What’s more, in Lawrence Co., “hundreds” gathered this week to hear from local officials about the economic and job opportunities tied to Shell’s new ethane cracker facility in Beaver Co., that’s projected to support 6,000 construction jobs and employ 600 Pennsylvanians once complete.

These energy infrastructure projects – like PennEast, Atlantic Sunrise, Mariner East, and Atlantic Coast, to name a few – are critical to connecting more consumers, power generators, and manufacturers with local, Pennsylvania-produced energy. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, production growth from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in our region “are major drivers for pipeline development” that creates jobs and unlocks these game-changing opportunities.

While Pennsylvania’s future is bright with continued energy development, state leaders must focus on polices that increase the Commonwealth’s competitiveness and encourage greater job-creating natural gas use rather than higher energy taxes and unnecessary regulations that hurt Pennsylvania jobs.

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