What does natural gas mean for the American economy?

MCCURDY: Natural gas, due to the shale gas revolution, is the brightest spot in the United States’ economy. The latest report showed we now employ over 1.7 million Americans. We just announced a scholarship program of $1m to provide scholarships to students to enter this workforce. We will see a retiring workforce that will continue to track young people, and educate them in the necessary skills, whether it’s in HVAC or welding. These are high paying jobs in the U.S. At the same time this changes the macroeconomics. This changes the balance of trade, from being the largest importer of fuel, to being energy secure, and a potential exporter. This is a completely different direction for the United States. I think that is why we are seeing policy makers starting to embrace this. It is critical now to continue to produce natural gas responsibly and reliably, and deliver it safely to consumers. We now provide natural gas to 177 million Americans.

Who do you see as potential export markets for natural gas from America?

MCCURDY: In the United States we consume 62bn cubic feet of natural gas per day. The exports we are looking at are fairly modest. We are looking at 5-7bn cubic feet per day. This is not a significant impact for the U.S., but it does make a difference if you are in a high demand market. In Japan, post Fukushima, the earthquake, tidal wave, and the destruction of their nuclear capabilities, they have a huge demand for energy. There is a strong market there. South Korea is also the largest importer of natural gas. China also has large demand, as well as much of Asia. Europe is also looking to offset coal with imports of natural gas. The United Kingdom recently signed contracts with a U.S. based company. The market is no longer speculative. You see contracts in this pavilion and exhibition, from many different countries and corporations.

Are you satisfied with the level of infrastructure investment in America, and what else needs to be done so we remain at the forefront in this regard?

MCCURDY: In the United States, you hear from the broad standpoint that we have decaying infrastructure and that it is one of the top policy concerns. Infrastructure will be a primary concern going forward. In the energy/natural gas sector, we currently have 2.4m miles of pipeline, which is the envy of the world. Some of that has been in place for a long time so it is important to continue to replace pipeline integrity. The safety of that system is always a top priority. We want to provide more opportunities for Americans to share this resource. On a daily basis, Governors come to us with potential manufacturers who want to relocate to our area. In Maine, a large paper mill came with this request, but they are off the grid, and away from the pipeline. There is a need to expand. This is an area we are continuing to work on. It is not just delivering on the promise of natural gas, but ensuring all Americans have access to this foundation fuel, which is clean, and over time will be very affordable.

What role does natural gas play in light and heavy industrial output in America today?

McCURDY: One of the biggest changes in America is the resurgence of manufacturing, even though it was on a steady decline. In the 1990s we saw an exodus of manufacturing and heavy petrochemical industries because of the cost of energy, and the volatility of energy. They went offshore. In 2013 and for the next decade, we will see hundreds of billions of dollars of capital investment in these facilities, both in the petrochemical area, the fertilizer area, and also in manufacturing. If you read the reports coming out of Europe today, Germany, which has had a strong green policy, has seen skyrocketing energy prices. Manufacturing, which is the core of their economy, is starting to have trouble competing with the United States because of the affordable energy here. We now have a competitive advantage that no other nation has. You will see a renaissance in the manufacturing industry, and an insourcing of this capability, primarily because of affordable energy.