Dad was a carpenter. It was a skill he chose to develop. Maybe it was in his genes. He went through a carpentry apprenticeship to help him develop his skills. We lived in a rented row house in Pittsburgh. The landlord decided to sell the property and we had to move. I remember my parents talking in the evening. Mom was in tears. She called every available rental property in the newspaper. At the time I had three younger brothers. Every landlord Mom called asked how many kids they had. As soon as Mom said, “Four boys” they hung up.
My parents’ only choice was to be build a house. My grandfather loaned my parents enough money to buy a lot. They used the lot to get a construction loan. Dad used his carpentry skills and the help of friends and family to do much of the work on the house so he could afford to build it. I couldn’t fully appreciate it as a 7-year old. As an adult I marveled at the quality of Dad’s work. He also used his carpentry skills to do side jobs supporting our family. Dad chose to turn one of his strengths into a career.
I couldn’t drive a nail straight. My strengths were math, science and writing. Most of my brothers are good with their hands. They developed their strengths and went into the construction industry. The work they do is incredible. I went to WVU to develop my strengths and became an engineer. We should all determine our strengths. It’s particularly important for young people today to determine their strengths.
We also need to know our weaknesses. Should we focus on our weaknesses and try to turn them into strengths? Experts in employee development whom I know say we have a better chance of success by fully developing our strengths and making them stronger. I could not do what my brothers do. In construction they say measure twice, cut once. It doesn’t matter how many times I measure, I usually end up cutting two or three times.
When companies decide to come to our region, one of the first questions they ask is if we have trained workers. We can help our young people to determine their strengths and then develop them so they can fill the new high wage jobs coming to our region. This may mean fewer young people in college and more in specific technical training.
At a conference this week a speaker from Germany reported. “Germany just past Bermuda. We now have the highest cost electricity in the world.” Bermuda is a small island nation. They use fuel oil to produce their electricity. Fuel oil is expensive since world oil prices are over $90 per barrel. Bermuda don’t have a lot of options. Germany has choices. They chose to shut down most of their nuclear power and coal plants in favor of renewables which produce 46% of their electricity. When Russia shut off natural gas deliveries the Germans were forced to restart coal power plants. Current German electric rates are over $.61 per kwh. CNBC reported, “German energy prices are so high, they are driving companies to relocate.” The USA is one of the places they are relocating to.
WTI crude oil is $92.92 per barrel. Brent crude is $96.05 per barrel. Americans are feeling pain at the pump. This hurts those who can least afford it like the single mom we know who drives 60 miles to work. High fuel costs drive up the cost of almost everything especially food. Russia and OPEC are benefiting. Without spending money to drill, they received a price increase of over $50 per barrel in four years. Is Putin using this windfall to build hospitals and schools or is this windfall financing his war in Ukraine?
One of the biggest strengths of our region is our abundant supply of natural gas. Only the rest of the USA and Russia produce more natural gas than our region. The Shale Crescent USA- WV, OH & PA produces twice as much natural gas as China who is energy poor. Natural gas isn’t just a fuel for heating and cooking. Natural gas and natural gas liquids like methane, ethane, propane and butane are the building blocks for thousands of products keeping people alive and making modern life possible. Cell phones, medical products, EVs and even solar panels are natural gas products.
China uses oil for most of their manufacturing molecules. It takes 6 MCF of natural gas to produce the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil. Natural gas prices on the Gulf Coast are $2.89 per MCF. In our region natural gas is $1.25 per MCF, the lowest price in the industrialized world. This means for $7.50 our region gets the same amount of energy as a $92.92 barrel of oil. Natural gas is our strength and why we have a huge manufacturing advantage over Europe, Asia and other parts of the USA.
There are people who would like to see us move away from natural gas to renewables like Germany has done. The speaker told us Germany is at turning point and moving back to fossil fuels. What they are doing now is unsustainable. Manufacturing is going overseas. People are upset with high energy costs. Germany can’t compete with China and is importing most manufactured products. Like the USA, Germany is responsible for the increase in global emissions by enabling Chinese manufacturing. China is continuing to increase its use of coal. We can stop enabling Chinese emissions.
Focusing on developing our own personal strengths makes good sense for success. It makes good sense for our region to develop its strengths of natural gas and human resources. Developing natural gas and infrastructure keeps our energy prices low. It can continue to bring manufacturing to our region from overseas creating high wage jobs and raising the standard of living for people who live here.
Greg Kozera, [email protected] is Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com (You can follow SCUSA on Facebook) He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, high school soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.