Business Coalition Poll Shows Pennsylvanians Support Keeping Natural Gas as Energy Source

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Energy policy has become a big issue in political races this year, as gas prices have risen dramatically and questions have arisen over how America produces oil and gas.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer, and a new poll from the Pittsburgh Works Together business coalition suggests Pennsylvanians want it to stay that way.

When asked if Pennsylvania should ensure that natural gas continues to be part of the state’s energy use, 73% said they strongly or somewhat supported the idea and 20% said they strongly or somewhat opposed it, depending on the poll.

The poll, conducted Feb. 14-16 by Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 600 voters across the state and had a 4% margin of error. Pittsburgh Works is a coalition of building trades unions, energy companies and pro-business groups in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Natural gas has become a political lightning rod in Pennsylvania over the years. Natural gas drilling has received mixed support in polls, with some surveys showing Pennsylvanians want the practice of hydraulic fracturing to end. The process has raised concerns about water pollution and increased emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The production and use of natural gas has increased in the state. According to 2021 data from the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas accounts for 11,825 megawatts of electricity generation, nearly double the second largest source, nuclear power. Facilities that refine natural gas into other products have also developed in Pennsylvania. A multi-billion cracker nears completion in Beaver County that will convert ethane from natural gas into ethylene and polyethylene, the building blocks of plastic.

Ken Zapinski of Pittsburgh Works said the group’s polls show there is broad support for natural gas production among Pennsylvanians.

“If I was a policy maker in Harrisburg, I would take the message that voters want more natural gas,” Zapinski said. “We think it’s important to hear what people think and balance that with other messages that might be stronger, but don’t have the support of the general population.”

Natural gas prices started to rise dramatically about a year ago. The problem worsened after Russia invaded Ukraine and countries, including the United States, cut off Russian imports of natural gas.

The Pittsburgh Works poll also showed that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support energy policies that don’t result in job losses. Asked about “advancing energy policies that are environmentally friendly but don’t jeopardize jobs or power reliability in Pennsylvania,” 84% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat supported the idea, compared to 12 % who strongly or somewhat opposed it.

Other polls have shown Pennsylvanians’ support for a transition to renewable energy, which draws a fine line on how politicians approach energy policy issues. At a forum last Sunday in Pittsburgh, some Democratic Senate candidates spoke of supporting a transition to renewable energy as long as jobs aren’t lost in the transition, while others called for a moratorium on drilling. gas and oil. Republican politicians have more fully embraced increased production of natural gas and other fossil fuels.

The Pittsburgh Works poll showed split support for natural gas, with 74% of Republicans supporting keeping natural gas in Pennsylvania, compared to 52% of independents and 32% of Democrats.

The poll was part of a Pittsburgh Works presentation on supporting more manufacturing and fewer trade regulations in Pennsylvania. It also showed that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support a greater focus on job training and strong support for lower corporate taxes in Pennsylvania.

Ryan Deto is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Ryan by email at rdeto@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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