PITTSBURGH – One unsung benefit of the shale gas revolution is low energy prices for consumers of all stripes – residential commercial and industrial – said Mike Butler, executive director for the mid-Atlantic chapter of Consumer Energy Alliance.
Butler was attending the 2018 Shale Insight Conference and took a few minutes to talk about the West Virginia energy savings report, Powering West Virginia, CEA just released and he is promoting around the area.
West Virginia energy consumers, the report says, saved $4.3 billion in energy costs from 2006 through 2016, based on a review of natural gas prices during that period. Residential consumers saved about $1.6 billion while commercial and industrial consumers saved about $2.7 billion.
Shale gas talk usually focuses on jobs and economic growth, Butler said. But the shale boom’s resultant low energy prices have helped businesses and families – particularly fixed- and low-income families.
The average annual energy cost in the tri-state area, he said, is about $3,400. For a family at poverty level, that can be 25 to 30 percent of their entire income. “It’s important to keep these prices low.”
In 2017, the report says, shale gas production put West Virginia in the seventh spot nationally for natural gas production.
The alliance describes itself as “advocating for sensible energy policies for all consumers, such as families and small businesses, by providing sound, unbiased information on energy issues.”
CEA developed the report, he said, for two reasons. One is to promote how much is happening in the Appalachian shale region. “It’s such an exciting time.”
The other: “You have a lot of these kind-of anti-energy activists who want to keep everything in the ground, want to shut down all the pipeline development.” CEA wanted to put into context that under their scenario, 10 or 30 years from now there would be a 30-some percent energy shortage and states will see rolling blackouts and brownouts.
The report, in contrast, shows the savings produced with what is happening now. “It’s the simple math of those savings, of what consumers have put in their pocket.”
CEA also released an overall report, Oil and Natural Gas a Boon to the Tri-State Region. The total saved for all three states, Butler said, was $75 billion; Pennsylvania saw $30 billion saved and Ohio saw $40 billion.
Butler addressed the issue raised throughout the day of gas-fired power plants displacing coal plants in the region. “At Consumer Energy Alliance, we’re an all of the above organization.” They promote any energy source and policy that achieves affordability and reliability for consumers.
Wind and solar, he said, will be a growing part of the mix. But for the tri-state area, “natural gas, as well as coal and nuclear, will still be doing the lion’s share of the work for many decades to come.”