Natural gas is this generation's anthracite coal to this area, but pipelines have to be built to get the gas to potential customers, officials said at a recent program.
"Coal used to come out of the ground and get sent over the mountain to Danville, and get used in the old iron works," Carl Marrara, vice-president for government affairs for the Pennsylvania Manufactures Association, told those who attended a "Think About Energy" program sponsored by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. at Genetti's in Hazleton. "The amount of prosperity I've heard during that era we just can't comprehend. It was absolutely amazing, and we have that opportunity again."
Marcellus Shale natural gas represents the second-largest gas reserve in the world, said Cabot spokesman George Stark.
"We are sitting on something ginormous, second only to Saudi Arabia," he said. "Cabot produces natural gas from 200,000 acres in Susquehanna County. That 200,000 acres sends 2 billion cubic feet of gas every day to homes, manufacturers, businesses and communities. You don't see that kind of production anywhere else in the United States."
But the main issue is getting the gas to customers.
"While we're producing the natural gas, the challenge is what do we do with it?" Stark asked. "We have the resource, but we can't do anything with it unless I can get it to market. We need your help to make certain the pipelines get it. Once the pipelines get it, there is significant savings to your home, businesses, manufacturers and community."
Stark said there are dedicated gas lines to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. And there is more than enough for Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.
Marrara said 930,000 shale gas-driven manufacturing jobs will be created by 2030 and 1.4 million by 2041.
"As of today, 264 chemical company projects valued at $164 billion in capital investment have been announced. Forty percent completed or under construction, and 55 percent in the planning phase," he said. "Sixty-one percent of announced investment is from firms located outside the United States. Much more investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastic products, which will help improve the nation's trade deficit."
Robert Watts, northeast regional director of the Governor's Action Team, said the presence of the gas is being used as a business attraction tool, too.
"Business attraction has changed," Watts said. "It has become hand-to-hand combat. The proliferation of data has allowed site selection consultants, commercial and industrial realtors to do data modeling, which means 99 percent of the time when our region is being considered, we will not be aware of it. They know what sites are available, they know what our workforce is, they know our average education attainment, household wages and commuting patterns. It is becoming incredibly more competitive.
Watts said the region needs to find a way to position itself so that it has a comparative advantage.
"There's an opportunity to use energy as an advantage," he said.