Just days before Hurricane Sally dumped rain and brought strong winds to the Gulf of Mexico the Delaware Valley Journal published a piece that is more salient than ever.
Titled ‘Gulf Coast and California Should Serve as Lessons for PA’ and written by Charlie Melancon, a former Democratic member of Congress from Louisiana who served on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the piece takes a good look at the importance of developing regional energy hubs to offset disruptions like those ongoing in California (rolling electrical blackouts) and an active hurricane season in the South.
He writes that the three different scenarios between a safe East Coast, dark California electrical grid, and battered Gulf “emphasize the piecemeal nature of the American energy supply chain — in turn spotlighting the need for regions to invest in energy infrastructure and cultivate energy hubs of their own.”
Melancon makes an important point by noting the self-imposed pains California is experiencing thanks to Sacramento policies that have shuttered natural gas power plants in the name of environmental stewardship and renewables. Unfortunately, things on paper are not always as easy in practice. In place of natural gas California has folded in, through taxpayer subsidies, wind and solar energy that has shown to have weaknesses with consistent power distribution when the grid is strained.
Melancon rightfully notes the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex and the buildout of natural gas infrastructure as important capacity for the East Coast. Not only does this afford Pennsylvanians lower cost energy but it also makes resources available for neighboring states when needed.
Moreover, natural gas has helped fight COVID-19 as he notes:
“On the COVID-19 front, damage to energy infrastructure and processing facilities in the Gulf can undermine the strength of personal protective equipment supply chains and manufacturing.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial earlier this year, much of the country’s mask and hand sanitizer supply chains rely on natural gas processing facilities. ExxonMobil, for example, transformed one of its refineries to begin producing hand sanitizer utilizing isopropyl, a byproduct of propane, which it donated 1,200 gallons of to the stockpile in Pennsylvania.
Similarly, the plant had upped production of specialized polypropylene to meet growing demands in the medical mask and gown manufacturing space. Given the sheer magnitude of Hurricane Laura, production could lag while Louisiana works to get back on its feet.”
As we begin the transition into fall and look ahead to the upcoming winter it will be the East Coast’s turn in the barrel, and the coast will undoubtedly face energy challenges during the winter but as former Congressman Charlie Melacon wrote “Regional energy hubs are absolutely necessary in order to provide reliable and affordable energy sources for consumers across the country. Pennsylvania has an opportunity to develop its hub, which would be a sign of great progress.”