A study released last week highlighted the enormous economic benefits that could result from exporting a portion of the United States’ abundant supply of natural gas. According the report by ICF International, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports will create up to 665,000 jobs over the next 20 years, and even non-natural-gas-producing states such as California, New York and Illinois will benefit by seeing income gains between $2.6 – $5.0 billion. The study identified manufacturing as a major beneficiary of this economic growth:
Of the up to net 77,000 manufacturing jobs generated by LNG exports by 2035, states such as California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are expected to see gains of up to 4,600-8,200 in 2035. In addition to the in-state construction and maintenance generating manufacturing jobs for gas-producing states such as Texas and Pennsylvania, out-of-state manufacturing is required for production of steel, cement, and equipment. (Source: ICF International)
Our energy export potential does not end with LNG. Coal exports also have the potential to greatly benefit the economy. According to another study, over 11,000 new jobs and $841 million in wages would be created by the construction of export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Several companies are seeking permits to widen the capacity of existing bulk terminals in the Pacific Northwest to accommodate the larger-sized vessels that will be traversing the newly-expanded Panama Canal. Last week, in a speech on the economy in New Orleans, the President explained why this is so necessary:
“Rebuilding our transportation and communications networks is one of the fastest ways to create good jobs. And consider that just a couple of years from now, we’re going to have new supertankers that are going to start coming through the Panama Canal, and these tankers can hold three times as much cargo as today’s. If a port can’t handle those supertankers, they’ll go load and unload cargo somewhere else. So there’s work that we can start doing in terms of dredging and making the passageways deeper, which means the supertankers can have more stuff on them, which means they can unload and load more stuff, which makes this port more competitive. So why wouldn’t we put people to work upgrading them? Why wouldn’t we do that?” (Remarks by President Obama on the Economy, Port of New Orleans, 11/8/13)
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these LNG and coal export projects remain in limbo while waiting for any sign of movement on federal, state and local permits. Manufacturers are disappointed with these continued delays and believe principles of free trade and open markets should govern whether companies can move forward and construct export terminals on U.S. soil.
At a time when manufacturing job growth has been disappointing, LNG and coal exports represent real jobs and real wages for the 7.3% of unemployed Americans. Manufacturers are ready to get to work and hope regulators will make decisions on these permits as soon as possible.