Column: New pipelines would boost state

John Dulmes

It’s pretty common to see misconceptions around current issues for Michigan and our economy. There might be no better example than the discussion of natural gas.

The recent news that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the opening of a major section of the Rover Pipeline should be welcome across the Midwest. In conjunction with the Nexus Pipeline also under construction, this new infrastructure will deliver significant amounts of natural gas, on which Michigan’s economy relies heavily.

Yet often people question this and other new energy projects by expressing a preference for renewable energy like wind and solar. Michigan’s manufacturers, however, understand that natural gas and renewables both play an important role in our state’s economy and our energy future.

Many people don’t know that natural gas is used for more than producing power and heating our homes, but that it is an essential ingredient — a “feedstock” — for the production of everyday materials through chemistry. As some in our business put it, natural gas is to the chemical manufacturing industry as flour is to bakers

You might be standing on or wearing a product right now that was made with elements of natural gas, such as nylon for carpets and clothing, and rubber for sneakers. You certainly eat foods grown with fertilizers manufactured with natural gas. The plastics used in automobiles and numerous household products are other great examples.

So how about renewable energy? The chemical manufacturing industry produces the main components for solar panels and wind turbines, too. Without access to abundant natural gas, what renewable energy we do have would be much more expensive, if it could exist at all.

The business of chemistry supports more than 80,000 jobs in Michigan. Those jobs also rely on a steady supply of affordable natural gas. And natural gas is not just necessary for manufacturing. It is now Michigan’s largest source of energy overall. It has become the dominant source of home heating, with more than three quarters of Michigan households using it for heat. It is consumed in large quantities not just by manufacturers, but by commercial and residential users as well.

Further, more natural gas means less reliance on coal. Natural gas is Michigan’s third-largest source of energy for electricity generation, and growing.

For all of these reasons, increased access to domestically produced natural gas — provided by projects like the Rover and Nexus pipelines — is welcome news by the Michigan Chemistry Council. We recognize that our economy depends on expanded infrastructure to deliver this energy to our state, which cannot produce enough gas on its own. Fortunately, ample supplies are increasingly being produced in our Midwest region, and this new infrastructure helps ensure Michigan can access these resources — as noted by the state’s recent winter energy outlook. And pipelines — especially today’s modern construction — are by far the safest means of transporting this energy to our state.

That is why so many Michigan industries support energy infrastructure projects that help provide an essential ingredient for everyday life and enable jobs for millions of Michigan families.

John Dulmes is executive director of the Michigan Chemistry Council.