How’s this for a big number: $1 trillion. That’s trillion with a T, and it’s not costing you a penny.

According to a recent study by Shale Crescent USA, consumers in the United States have realized more than $1 trillion in savings thanks to domestic natural gas production. For those of us living in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, it means we have realized more than $95 billion in savings.

Furthermore, manufacturers and industrial consumers of our natural gas realized $25 billion in savings over the 10-year period. So it follows that energy-intensive industries that locate in our region should experience significantly higher profits than they would in other regions, due to lower natural gas and natural gas liquids prices.

But to me, that $1 trillion means so much more. It means security and independence. It means revitalizing a long-stagnant economy, by infusing the region with working capital. That money in our pockets that I mentioned? It means reigniting our entrepreneurial spirit, and growth and prosperity returning to a region that has been rusting for decades.

Is this reason enough to support the responsible production of energy in our region? I know I will keep working to develop our built environment while fighting to protect our natural environment because this is my home. No one should sacrifice our natural resources, or jeopardize our health and well-being, in the name of prosperity.

We know we don’t have to choose between good jobs and clean air and water, so we will continue to work to attract new business and capitalize on economic opportunities coming to our region. Through shale gas development, we are building the framework for a modern manufacturing renaissance. Pennsylvania is truly open for business.

And while we’re at it, we’re going to knock off the “woe-is-me” attitude and knock some of that rust off that rust belt.

We know that for our region to prosper, we need to do more than simply increase jobs. We need to improve our region’s overall health and enhance the quality of life. That is why I will stand with hard-working families, and support the people in our union halls and our building trades, while protecting our environment.

Shale gas development is the vehicle that will take us to that brighter future. The most recent production number shows that Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia account for nearly one-third of marketed natural gas production in the United States. And a recent IHS Markit study forecasts that the region will supply 45 percent of the U.S. natural gas production by 2040.

Let’s improve our environment by using the feedstock we produce here. Yes, we can significantly decrease carbon emissions by simply keeping our resource here. China has the capability to build up to 20 cracker plants and is looking at our basin as an ethane supply. Think about that . . . we sell ethane to China, which cracks it and manufactures products that it sells to us. Every molecule of ethane we move in that scenario increases the global carbon footprint.

We must diversify our regional energy portfolio. There is room for renewables. Consider the microgrid that will power Pittsburgh International Airport, consisting of natural gas wells and solar panels. It will be a first of its kind, and will be built, maintained and operated by Peoples Natural Gas. This microgrid will increase reliability and public safety, and reduce electricity costs for the airport and tenants.

Greene County recently added to its energy portfolio with the announcement that Longview Power will construct a large solar field, with an estimated 185,000 solar panels straddling the Pennsylvania-West Virginia line. Additionally, with the potential for underground storage, and with several large sites along the Monongahela River with rail access, and geographically located near the very center of the shale crescent, Southwestern Pennsylvania is poised to become the hub of the nation’s energy future.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

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