Guest Opinion: Pipelines Will Help Lead to America’s Energy Independence

By: Richard Filling
January 21, 2015

A pipeline company has proposed to build a north-south natural gas pipeline through Lancaster County, and while opposition to the pipeline has been raised, it is important to realize how infrastructure investment in domestic sources of energy would help our nation by keeping energy prices low, reducing pollution, and ending a major cause of foreign wars.

Right now, energy in the form of natural gas from the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania and surrounding states, along with western oil, can drastically reduce our need to import foreign fuel from the Middle East, Venezuela, or any other nation. The energy we need is sitting there in the ground of the counties along the northern tier of our state.

But to make use of this valuable resource to heat our homes, drive our cars, and fuel our factories, the gas must be moved to market — by pipeline underground, trucks over our roads, or rail cars on established and new tracks. Of those, constantly flowing underground pipelines are far more efficient and safer than small-batch transport above ground.

If we can establish U.S. energy independence, there will be three massive, direct benefits. First, OPEC will no longer be able to gouge American consumers and industry by artificially raising the price of petroleum products. The free market, not a cartel, can set the prices of energy.

Second, a major cause of war and U.S. military intervention will disappear.

If we can rely on our own gas and oil fields, and if the necessary infrastructure to deliver this energy to the market were to be put in place, we would no longer have a national security need to intervene militarily in the Middle East or other foreign lands. Other national or humanitarian interests might draw us into foreign conflicts, but not energy security.

Third, development of natural gas production in northern Pennsylvania will continue to bring jobs and wealth to a once depressed part of the Commonwealth. It already is providing funds to build better schools, roads, and services in those communities. Through impact fees, the production companies are sharing some of that new wealth with other counties, including over $3 million to Lancaster County. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry added over 10,000 jobs between 2007 and 2012 with the average annual pay exceeding $80,000.

Those who raise concerns about a new pipeline crossing environmentally or culturally sensitive areas make a good point. A new pipeline certainly should not run across the Shenk’s Ferry wildlife preserve, the Serpentine Barrens, Native American grave sites, or any historic preservation sites.

And construction crews must take care to keep separate topsoil and subsoil when they excavate, so the most fertile soil can be replaced back on top after the pipe is buried.

But pipelines crisscross this county now and have for many decades, bringing gas from western fields to eastern markets. There is no reason to believe that one more pipeline, properly constructed and carefully monitored, will pose any more problems than the many already here.

Those concerned about the environment should also know that natural gas is substantially cleaner than other more widely used fossil fuels. It produces 40 percent less carbon emissions than coal and 30 percent less than oil. So long as this and other countries rely on fossil fuels for energy — and the day of affordable, mass-produced renewable energy is simply not here yet — natural gas moved to market by underground pipeline is as clean and safe as it gets.

The concrete value of a north-south pipeline for our Commonwealth and nation far outweigh the fear of hypothetical harm raised by some opponents. This project would bring economic prosperity, reduce pollution, and eliminate a major cause of modern wars.

In the continuing debate, opponents need to say why they do not support lowering energy prices, cleaning the air, and reducing the causes of war. Our political leaders, so far all silent on this issue, likewise need to explain why they oppose this project or remain silent about the good it would bring.

Richard Filling, a former Pennsylvania commissioner of elections, is a Warwick Township, Lancaster County resident. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Williams.