2018-07-07 / Viewpoints

Compelling case for shale gas

By Thomas L. Ayers

(Thomas L. Ayers is a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general. He studied energy and the environment as part of National Security Strategy studies at the National War Col­lege in Washington D.C.)

As a recently retired Air Force senior leader and a private landowner in the shale gas region, I firmly believe America’s energy abundance, accessible through hydraulic fractur­ing and horizontal drilling, is a global game-changer for the United States.

In 1804, my family settled in Pennsylvania’s last remaining wilderness on a piece of land that remains our family farm in Potter County. The Ayers family is still there today, raising cattle and farming on 724 acres in what is perfectly described as God’s Country.

Like most farming families, especially multi-generational ones like ours, Ayers Hill Farm is considered sacred and the foundation of our family’s identity as Americans.

It is not only where we raise cattle, grow crops, manage timber, and enjoy the outdoors together, it is our legacy – something to preserve for our children and grandchildren and for generations to come.

As many Pennsylvanians are keenly aware, managing a farm is tough work. Yet blessings come along in many forms.

One that we are very grateful for, like so many other farming families in Penn­sylvania, is the ability to safely produce clean-burning, abundant and American- made natural gas resources below our farm.

Natural gas production, through our lease with JKLM Energy and numerous other landowner leases with companies statewide, is creating a long overdue economic resurgence as we see growing job opportunities and enormous capital investments return to Pennsylvania.

Contrary to some political noise, energy development is happening safely, clean­ly, and in concert with our values as landowners and the values of conservationists who understand this part of the country’s unique beauty.

As I put my “military cap” back on, I approach domestic energy development with an even broader perspective.

Following more than three decades in uniform, including numerous Middle East deployments, extensive travel throughout Africa, meetings with military lead­ers in eastern Europe, and time spent in headquarters and air operations centers worldwide, my perspective on the vital importance of American domestic energy development could not be clearer.

While alternative energy sources are important to our future, access to oil and natural gas is the lifeblood of any developed nation’s economy and will be for de­cades to come. Economic strength underpins national strength, resolve, and -- for the United States -- our vitally important role as a world leader.

Prior to the shale revolution, when our country was energy dependent on foreign (and at times hostile) nations, importing energy from overseas constituted the larg­est transfer of wealth in human history.

The unfortunate side effect was use of that wealth transfer by despots and au­thoritarian regimes – regimes who do not share our values and whose only inter­ests have been and will be to preserve wealth and power at all costs.

Domestic shale oil and gas development has shifted that balance of power and influence back to the United States. Our country is on track to be a net energy exporter by 2022.

America grows stronger geopolitically as our oil and natural gas exports help like-minded partners break dependence on Middle East despots, Russian oligarchs, and African warlords – marginalizing their influence in the world.

While political debate remains the hallmark of a true representative democracy, in conducting that debate, both sides must critically analyze important local and broader issues – the higher stakes that will influence the global balance of power in the 21st century and beyond.

Our energy can and must be used as a force of good in the world. It will be a true global game changer for the better if we have the vision and wisdom see it for what it is.

Return to top