WILLIAMSPORT — Gov. Tom Corbett believes energy will always equal jobs.
Corbett was in Montgomery on Tuesday at the Pennsylvania College of Technology near Williamsport to unveil his “Energy = Jobs” guide, a handbook detailing the state’s energy portfolio he can present to investors considering Pennsylvania as a place to plant their resources.
Surrounded by burly trade-school students wearing flannel and steel-toed boots in an spacious diesel mechanics lab, Corbett said the state has recovered 99 percent of jobs lost during the recession, largely because of the robust and growing energy industry.
Corbett has come under fire recently for his energy policy. His Democratic opponents in this year’s gubernatorial election have criticized him for soft regulation and gracious taxation on developers.
“We have looked at the policies that assist the growth of all the industries, whether it be wind and solar, nuclear or natural gas, so that we can help grow those industries,” Corbett said. “And we’ve looked at the availability of the workforce.”
“We have a resource document that when I’m trying to sell Pennsylvania to foreign investment or to investment from around the country or to people here in Pennsylvania (that says) this is what we have available,” Corbett said.
Twenty-six salesman contracted internationally, those on U.S. soil and in Pennsylvania are going to receive this document to add to their arsenal of sales tools, Corbett said.
By the numbers
State Labor and Industry Department Secretary Julia Hearthway said core jobs, that is jobs offered by drilling operators, total around 136,500 since 2008. Considering peripheral jobs created through sub-contractors, more than 400,000 new jobs have been introduced, Hearthway said.
Further, natural gas flowing through the state’s pipelines is expected to increase 40 percent by 2020, Hearthway said.
“You’ve chosen well,” she said looking over shoulder to the college students.
Pennsylvania ranks second in the country for natural-gas production and second nationally for nuclear power, the handbook shows. It makes note of the declining wholesale cost of energy as reported by PJM, the organization the manages the Mid-Atlantic power grid.
PJM reports show it cost 43 percent less to generate, distribute and preserve reliability for electricity service in 2012 than it did in 2008. Further, generation costs decreased by 10 percent from 2008 to 2012, PJM reports.
Though much of Tuesday’s discussion centered on natural gas, the handbook gives a fair nod to all of the state’s power-generation sources.
New skills needed
The job market is changing, and for those who have been booted from their careers, Corbett will tell you it’s time to learn new skills.
“I hear stories,” Corbett said. “People say, ‘Ehh, you know I want the same job that (I always had).’ You know today, that’s probably not going to be the case, ‘cause jobs are changing. Skills are changing. What these kids are learning today probably didn’t even exist … 10 to 15 years ago.”
Hearthway said most of the jobs stemming from energy-production growth can be trained in nine months, and core industry jobs pay about $35,000 more annually than the average state wage.
A bump in the road?
Corbett said a December determination made by some state Supreme Court justices that portions of the state’s oil and gas law violate the state Constitution and impinge on the public’s right to clean air and water could prove to be a roadblock to producers creating new jobs in Pennsylvania, but he said the gas that remains untapped is enough incentive to try to work around it.
“Much of what’s going on is not going to be directly affected at all. They’re going to continue to drill. They’re going to continue to develop a natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania. It might get a little bumpy for a while, but they aren’t going away,” Corbett said. “Because the gas is here.”
He said countering the court’s decision with other incentives such as industry-friendly legislation and taxes could keep the drillers working in the state.
“They’ll go away if we do certain things like raise taxes, because the gas is in other areas. But As long as we create an environment that makes us competitive with other areas, we’re going to be able to keep them here,” the governor said.