Shale gas symposium focuses on benefits for manufacturing


Numerous government and corporate speakers extolled the benefits of increased shale gas production to the American economy, while urging that efforts continue to provide environmental protections, at a Washington, D.C., symposium led by U-M.

Titled “Shale Gas: A Game Changer for American Manufacturing,” the event Friday was sponsored by the U-M Institute for Manufacturing Leadership and the U-M Energy Institute. College of Engineering Dean David Munson was among numerous U-M administrators and faculty to participate.

Former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine addresses the symposium on shale gas and its implications for American manufacturing. (Photo by Mike Waring, Washington Office)

Speakers included Tom Kalil of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; John Engler, former Michigan governor and current CEO of the Business Roundtable; Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin; and Paul O’Neill, former secretary of the treasury. 

Many of the participants said the increase in natural gas supply as a result of shale gas exploration is having a positive impact on manufacturing, and provides a competitive advantage to American companies by providing a lower-cost energy source.

“Shale gas is also helping us buy time to find permanent energy solutions,” said Augustine.  “Increased natural gas is also reducing carbon emissions over coal and oil.”

O’Neill, once the CEO of Alcoa Aluminum, said the industry mantra must be to “never do harm.”

“We should set our sights on zero water contamination and zero methane escapes” from shale oil drilling, he said.

Another speaker, Melanie Kenderdine, director of energy policy for the U.S. Department of Energy, said her office is working on a Quadrennial Energy Review for the nation that is looking at developing a roadmap for developing the energy resources America will need going forward. She particularly talked about modernizing the infrastructure that delivers energy to American homes and businesses.

“We need to figure out what the barriers are for firms today, and what it’s going to take to unleash a manufacturing renaissance,” said Sridhar Kota, director of the Institute for Manufacturing Leadership and the Herrick Professor of Engineering, who organized the conference.

“The U.S. needs a strategic plan and a suite of economically, socially and environmentally viable policies to responsibly leverage the new abundance of low-cost natural gas, both as feedstock for the chemical industry and fuel for energy-intensive manufacturing sectors.”


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