Forum Highlights Importance of Fracking to Colorado Manufacturing

All signs are pointing to the makings of a U.S. manufacturing renaissance, and the U.S. shale boom is a clear contributor. According to recent reports, U.S. manufacturing is expanding at its fastest pace in 13 years. Coincidentally, both the U.S. manufacturing and oil and natural gas industry seem to be on the same upward trajectory over the course of the last decade. Last week, Colorado manufacturers explained the nexus between the two industries during a Colorado Energy and Manufacturing Forum hosted by Consumer Energy Alliance and the Colorado Business Roundtable.

The forum included a manufacturing panel discussion featuring Tom Bugnitz from Manufacturer Edge, Tim Heaton from CAMA, and Jeff Popiel from GeoTech Environment Equipment & Leptron Unmanned Aircraft Systems. One of the panelists highlighted the importance of natural gas to the Colorado manufacturing industry:

“Those companies that are melting, coding, […] anything that’s high energy intensive, they are using natural gas in Colorado, they have benefited from the low pricing, and it is without a doubt been part of the driving force for the growth in manufacturing in Colorado. Thank you to the gas side of the house, because that has clearly benefited manufacturing.”

Both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators attended last week’s forum. Senator Michael Bennet acknowledged the innovation and benefits the oil and natural gas industry brings to Colorado.

 “The cost of natural gas has dropped like a stone because of the ingenuity of people in this room and people like you around the country. When people hear a message that says, ‘we should displace coal and we believe that fracking is terrible,’ what they hear is an anti-jobs message and an anti-science message.”

Senator Bennet is onto something here about the “Keep It in the Ground” groups, and this “anti-jobs” and “anti-science” message is not being well received by the manufacturing industry that relies heavily on affordable and reliable energy from the oil and natural gas industry.

A panelist explained the importance of affordable and reliable energy sources for Colorado manufacturers:

 “What I tend to worry about with this, in my job, is what are the things around the corner that are going to kill us, literally and figuratively. And one of those is resiliency and the other is reliability, and the issues we are starting to see around the country and also in Colorado is can we depend on quality and availability of the energy we are looking for? Cost is one thing, and then there’s the cost if you can’t get it and if it’s not reliable.”

Panelist gave hard numbers for what the manufacturing industry means to Colorado’s economy, further driving home the point that affordable and reliable energy is paramount.

“In Colorado there are 6,000 manufactures. To put it in perspective, tourism is about $20 billion a year industry, and manufacturing is about $22 billion; we have 140,000 employees.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released a 2016 study quantifying the industry’s growing demand for natural gas. In a press release, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons gives an overview of what natural gas means to manufacturing and the U.S. economy:

“Manufacturers use natural gas for fuel, such as drying, melting, machine drive and space heating, and as a feedstock in refining, chemicals and primary metals sectors. Domestic natural gas has transformed the U.S. economy, made our companies more competitive, created jobs and put money back in the pockets of working Americans.”

As the U.S. manufacturing industry grows, so will the demand for natural gas. Not only is natural gas affordable and reliable, it’s also one the cleanest burning energy sources and has played a key role in lowering U.S. carbon emissions. Manufacturing, much like oil and natural gas, is necessary and touches every facet of our lives.

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