by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Low-cost energy is an essential ingredient to economic vitality. Rodney Pitts, chairman of Southern Elevator and a John Locke Foundation board member sent the following to the Charlotte Observer as a letter to the editor.
The shutting down of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project, financed by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, kills a dependable long-term and cost-efficient source of natural gas for Eastern North Carolina. That in turn ends the likelihood of industrialization of Eastern North Carolina, which has not been able to industrialize due to the lack of dependable low-cost energy.
Low-cost energy would provide natural gas heating to rural residents that are currently using high-cost propane. Industrialization from low-cost energy would bring high-paying jobs for existing residents and encourage new employees to move to the area, raising the standard of living and improving the economic vitality for all people in Eastern North Carolina. That higher standard of living includes the ability and desire to utilize the internet for further quality of life improvements.
The State of North Carolina has tried to industrialize Eastern North Carolina by spending over a hundred and fifty million dollars over two decades on the Global Transpark, near Kinston, North Carolina. This boondoggle has never been viable, in large part because of the lack of low-cost energy, and its 3600 promised jobs have never materialized. As a result, the poor and minority residents of the area who were supposed to be helped still lack many of the amenities most of other North Carolinians take for granted.
In contrast, for over 100 years the Piedmont region from the Charlotte area through northern South Carolina has had dependable low-cost energy and the industrialization that goes with it. That industrialization has created demand for a trained labor force, resulting in well-paying jobs. Manufacturers using high technology processes have continued to expand in the region in the 2000’s, 2010’s and now in 2020. This is the growth that Eastern North Carolina needs to replicate.
The cancellation of the project has been celebrated by environmental groups, who believe that the project’s benefits can be replicated with renewable energy. Unfortunately, renewable energy does not provide consistent energy needed to run manufacturing plants nor the material resources utilized in the manufacturing process. Far from helping the poor and minority residents, these environmental groups have removed eastern North Carolinians’ best hope of improving their lives.
Rodney C. Pitts