By Greg Moreland
Nothing gets done without energy. From powering computers, credit card machines, or heavy manufacturing machinery to providing the electricity needed for heat, air conditioning, or lighting, to creating buildings, furniture, and office supplies to fueling trucks to deliver, energy is the common denominator that sets our world in motion.
There is a reason we call staying in business “keeping the lights on.” Energy is the cost of doing business, and for small businesses – many operating on thin profit margins – every penny counts.
During the pandemic, small businesses across the country were devastated, especially in the early months when changing mitigation orders forced many job creators to close their doors for an extended period, leading to serious workforce challenges. As we continue to recover from that challenging time, small businesses need affordable and reliable energy to rebuild and thrive.
Here in Pennsylvania, we are uniquely situated to be the solution to powering our lives and livelihoods affordably, effectively, and efficiently. Thanks to the Commonwealth’s prolific natural gas reserves, Pennsylvania is now one of the leading natural gas-producing states in the country – second only to Texas. Natural gas has bolstered the state’s diverse energy portfolio. As natural gas exploration and extraction has grown, Pennsylvania residents and businesses have benefited through lower energy costs and increased economic activity.
By breathing new life into once economically stagnant communities, the industry supported a boon of downstream opportunities and helped to grow cottage industries. Niche markets and businesses have developed to help support the industry. Additionally, there has been a positive impact on ancillary businesses. In new drilling areas, restaurants, hotels, and mom-and-pop shops have seen increased activity and a boost in sales. And within this bustle, increase in natural gas use has also been environmentally beneficial by significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
In February, I had the opportunity to testify before the House Majority Policy Committee about the need for affordable, reliable energy for small businesses. As I noted in my written testimony, energy companies will not invest if they are met with hostile rhetoric and policies from our lawmakers.
Unfortunately, there continues to be a vocal group of elected officials on a mission to essentially shut down natural gas production in our state – driving away jobs, economic opportunity, and low energy prices and putting our state’s position as an energy leader at risk. The small business community is not advocating for government oversight and regulation to go away. There is a need for a reasonable regulatory environment. However, balance is necessary. Lawmakers should work to streamline the process to remove unnecessary burdens and duplicative requirements and paperwork on job creators.
It is not an “either/or” conversation when discussing environmental concerns and energy needs. We can have a competitive energy climate with fair and sensible regulations.
We have the opportunity for a renaissance of American manufacturing, bringing businesses and manufacturing back to the nation and the Commonwealth. But to do so, we need smart policies that encourage growth and promote competition. The solution starts here.
Greg Moreland is the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Pennsylvania, a non-profit, non-partisan, organization representing 13,000 small businesses throughout the Commonwealth.