Much of the nation’s growth in natural gas production has taken place in Texas and in particular, the rapid expansion of production in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.
As the nation’s second most populous state and the largest producing state, Texas and the Rio Grande Valley are uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of the historic opportunity presented by expanding exports of LNG.
LNG exports give the U.S. the ability to assert global energy leadership, strengthen its economy and create good-paying jobs for the hard working men and women in the Rio Grande Valley. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership is focused on creating the relationships and developing programs that advance the region by increasing economic growth and improving the quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Eagle Ford Shale is providing both of these. The shale play has seen a growth in hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and distribution centers. More importantly, it has created an environment that is beneficial and supportive for the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurialism. As we all know, small businesses are the back bone of every community.
Unfortunately, the recent energy boom has its naysayers, including some in the business community. A small but vocal group of companies have warned of negative impacts of expanded LNG exports on America’s “manufacturing renaissance” and energy prices in Texas. Yet, numerous studies continue to demonstrate their argument is flawed.
Expanding LNG exports will create jobs and provide economic benefits to the Rio Grande Valley region. LNG exports would incentivize new infrastructure investments worth billions of dollars in American communities. A recent study by ICF International estimates that LNG exports will create up to 155,000 jobs for Texans in construction, operations, exploration and production by 2035 and contribute up to $31.4 billion to the local economy as new wealth is generated in the state.
In a press release earlier this year, our own State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa highlighted the benefits of the energy industry to the Rio Grande Valley region. “We are seeing tens of thousands of new jobs created, higher wages being paid, billions of dollars in investments in the region.” Senator Hinojosa called this boom an Energy Renaissance.
In addition to the jobs created in retail, hospitality warehousing and more, there are other employment opportunities. There are jobs being created at places like the Port of Brownsville where rigs, parts and equipment are being brought in to supply the industry. Furthermore, there are directly related jobs being created such as driving trucks, welding and machining. Many of these jobs will be from the construction of the desperately needed pipelines that will move the oil and gas from the field to the market place, including liquefied natural gas that will be exported.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has raised its long-term forecast of natural gas production levels almost 40 percent more than estimated in its LNG export study two years ago. In fact, a recent DOE study concluded that LNG exports will grow the U.S. economy by up to $86 billion.
With abundant natural gas resources, the Rio Grande Valley has an historic opportunity to play a significant role in helping to lead the new energy economy. After decades of energy dependence on nations such as Russia, our allies can finally leverage domestic natural gas and reduce their dependence on countries frequently at odds with the U.S. This not only makes sense for America’s energy independence, but also for jobs and economic growth in South Texas.
Julian Alvarez is president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.