By Pete Kennedy
Speaking in Malvern last week, Gov. Tom Corbett said the state’s abundant energy resources could make the commonwealth a supplier of energy instead of a purchaser
Gov. Tom Corbett told a crowd of Chester County business and civic leaders last Thursday that the commonwealth could become energy independent in five or six years.
“Right now, we’re the fifth-largest energy producer in the country, but we’re the second-largest energy field in the world,” Corbett said.
The prediction came during a discussion of economic and business issues at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern. Before a luncheon crowd of about 300, the governor answered questions from 6ABC reporter Nydia Han and a few pre-selected audience members.
The topics ranged from corporate taxes to Marcellus Shale to Corbett’s recent comments about drug use in the state’s workforce, which he said were misconstrued as a cause of the state’s high unemployment rate.
Making Pennsylvania Energy Independent
Pennsylvania can use its various energy resources—mainly natural gas and coal, but also nuclear, wind, solar and hydroelectric—to break free of outside energy suppliers, according to the governor.
“We can make Pennsylvania energy independent in the next five or six years from the rest of the world. So that changes the geopolitics very quickly,” he said.
After asking Han to repeat the premise of a question about state pensions—that Pennsylvania faces a $47.4 billion unfunded pension liability—Corbett reiterated that 62 percent of state revenue currently goes to employee pensions.
He outlined pension changes that would affect future employees, making a 401k-style savings plan mandatory for those employees and offering financial management education tools to help them manage their retirement.
At several points throughout the discussion, the governor referenced recent trips to Europe and South America. He said said president of “energy-starved Chile” specifically asked about importing natural gas. He also said he talks up the commonwealth’s workers, location and low energy costs when he travels.
“When I talk to the people in Chile or Brazil, [I say] if you’re going to open in the United States, Pennsylvania is where you want to come. Sixty percent of the population of all of North America is a long day’s drive of Pennsylvania,” he said.
“What are we going to get in Southeastern PA?” the governor asked rhetorically. He said that an economic boon for any part of the state would benefit the state as a whole. More locally, he said an increase in the number of refineries would create jobs and natural gas exports would help to bolster the Port of Philadelphia.
Bureaucracy and Public-Private Partnerships
Corbett also touted changes made to the business regulation, including faster turnarounds on permits, and a more open policy on solicitation of public-private partnership for things like railroads.
“If somebody came forward and said ‘We want to renovate the Paoli Station… we have an idea of how to do that.’ Would that be one we’d consider? Sure,” Gov. Corbett said.
Leaving Pennsylvania ‘Better Than We Found It’
In his closing comments, Corbett mentioned leaving the state and nation better off than he found it. He cited his 19-month-old grandson as he talked about crucial decisions that will be made in the coming years.
“We were left by our parents and grandparents with a great country. Are we going to leave it better than we found it, which should be the goal of everybody in public service? That’s my goal,” Corbett said.