Letter to the Editor – Marcellus Works

To The Editor:


Prolonged unrest in the Middle East and skyrocketing energy prices are fueling the need for Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation to reduce its dependence on foreign oil – and fast!


The precarious nature of the Middle East has led to higher oil prices, which has had a ripple effect throughout our entire economy.  Just as our nation was beginning to see signs of economic recovery, unrest in the Middle East is raising the price for fuel, food and other consumer goods.


The good news is that Pennsylvania sits on top of what is believed to be the largest natural gas reserve in the world.   Not only is the Marcellus Shale a potential boon for energy consumers and a job creator, but if managed properly -- in a clean, safe and responsible manner -- it could enable Pennsylvania to achieve energy independence.


As a state legislator and energy consumer, I am interested in finding new sources of clean energy and efficient ways to use these resources to ensure they will be available for future generations. 


Alternative energy such as wind and solar are an important part of the overall energy mix, but concerns about abundance and reliability remain.  Research is also showing a downside to the use of biofuels.  The production of ethanol is cannibalizing our corn supply, increasing the price of grain for farmers and food prices for consumers.  Further, ethanol has been found to be more harmful to the environment than gasoline.  Natural gas, on the other hand, is abundant in Pennsylvania and it burns cleaner than gasoline and other liquid fuels.


In the House of Representatives, we are working on an omnibus package of bills known as Marcellus Works.  I am the prime sponsor of a bill that would use compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel government fleet vehicles and mass transit.  Once the infrastructure is in place to support passenger vehicles, this industry will take off. This is good news for consumers, the environment, businesses and job growth. 


Over the past year, I have sought to familiarize myself with natural gas and ways that we can use our precious natural resources.  My travels took me to State College where Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA), the mass transit system, has converted all of its busses to CNG.  Officials say the conversion has been good for the economy and for the environment.  Fuel costs average about a dollar less per gallon for CNG, and because it burns cleanly, there is no black smoke trailing the busses.


Before Pennsylvania can engage in widespread use of CNG, it must have the infrastructure – fueling stations – to support it.  I wanted to learn how to do this.


At my own expense, I traveled to Los Angeles in February, where I attended a series of seminars and tours of facilities that manufacture and install refueling stations for CNG and liquified natural gas (LNG).  It was one of the most educational and enlightening trips I have ever taken.  I learned how natural gas is compressed, and conversely, how it is liquified so it can be transported from the manufacturer to refueling facilities in much the same manner as gasoline or diesel.


Another important discovery in my trip was the availability and use of a renewable energy source that few of us have ever considered – methane.  Methane, which comes in the form of gasses arising from sewage treatment plants, landfills, farm waste and many other sources, has the same chemical makeup as the natural gas being extracted from the Marcellus Shale – only cleaner.


Methane can be captured and used as fuel for heat, transportation and electricity.  One company I met with in California said it extracts hundreds of millions of cubic feet of methane from sewage treatment plants each year.   Yet, in most areas of the country, instead of collecting it, methane is allowed to dissipate into the air. We need take advantage of this free, abundant and renewable energy source. 


Thanks to the Marcellus Shale, our thriving agriculture industry and an abundance of methane-producing sources of waste, Pennsylvania is positioned to become the nation’s leader in energy production.   Building the infrastructure to capture and distribute natural gas and to bring it to the businesses, homes and gas tanks of Pennsylvania will create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs.  Now is the time to replace foreign oil with natural gas and I see Pennsylvania leading the way.


I will be hosting a Marcellus Shale informational forum at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, at Gettysburg Fire Department.  The panel will consist of environmental officials, researchers and representatives of the natural gas industry.  I invite you to join me.


March 10, 2011


Rep. Dan Moul
(717) 334-3010

91st Legislative District
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