XTO Energy President Randy Cleveland opened the Wednesday session to explain how the energy industry can help “put West Virginia first.”
“If you’re lucky you find yourself sitting on a treasure,” Cleveland said. “West Virginia is sitting on a treasure with generational implications for decades to come.
“Of course, I’m talking about Marcellus Shale,” he said.
Cleveland went on to explain the opportunities for economic growth and job creation in the state, as well as setbacks the state will have to overcome, in regards to Marcellus Shale gas production.
“Shale gas is transforming the global energy landscape,” Cleveland said. “Marcellus is at the heart of this transformation.”
Globally, natural gas demand is expected to rise tremendously over the next several decades, Cleveland said. This growth, he continued, will create new jobs and investment opportunities — not only in the energy industry, but also in the manufacturing and chemical production sectors — particularly in West Virginia.
“As one of the four states with significant Marcellus acreage, West Virginia has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on natural gas resources,” Cleveland said. “Our growth here will be tremendous.”
However, Cleveland continued, West Virginia needs to change its political climate in order to keep up.
“West Virginia needs business tax policies that remain competitive with other states,” he said.
“We also need policies based on facts and sound science,” he continued. “West Virginia would benefit from modernizing its laws to maximize efficient energy production and minimize destruction to the environment.”
Additionally, Cleveland pointed out the need for the “ingenuity and hard work of countless men and women” in the industry, and the consequential greater need for a skilled workforce.
“There’s a growing gap between available jobs being created and pool of skilled workers,” he said, adding that America lags behind in terms of college grads with STEM degrees and high school grads with trade skills, such as welding and pipefitting.
But it’s not only students who will need to gain industry expertise, Cleveland said: “The U.S. will need more regulators at the state level who have an understanding of oil and gas operations.”