Letter: La. on cusp of new era

I often wonder what it must have felt like to live at the dawn of a new business era.

When the first Model-T rolled off the assembly line in 1908, did those assembly workers comprehend they had revolutionized global transportation forever?

At the turn of the 19th century, did our forefathers fully appreciate how Eli Whitney’s cotton gin would elevate American society from an agrarian culture to a global manufacturing superpower?

Unfortunately, I’m not really sure. But here is what I do know:

For the past several years, every one of us has lived in the midst of another industrial revolution — an economic transformation for which Louisiana has played a leading role.

Thanks to abundant shale formations like the Haynesville Shale, Louisianans have access to cleaner, more affordable, domestic energy for the first time in history. Natural gas that sells for $4 per million Btu (a standard measure for trading natural gas) in the U.S. retails at $15 per million Btu in Europe and upwards of $20 per million Btu in Asia.

That price differential not only gives Louisiana manufacturers a staggering competitive advantage, it also grants the opportunity to transform the way we power transportation.

From shrimping and alligator hunting, to international trade and deep sea drilling, innovative maritime operations in the Gulf are central to who we are as Louisianans.

This innovation is exemplified by companies like Harvey Gulf International Marine, a multipurpose maritime service company headquartered in New Orleans that recently announced a $400 million investment to build and operate the first offshore liquefied natural gas fueling facility in the United States.

Moving to LNG for Louisiana maritime and port operations makes sense in terms of added fuel savings — as the financial benefits of $1-$2 a gallon in savings over diesel are realized immediately — but also in terms of safeguarding the Gulf.

Beginning in August 2012, an amendment to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) regulated a fuel oil sulfur limit of 1 percent for all ships operating within 200 miles of the United States.

By switching to cleaner LNG, Louisiana ports can act as better stewards of our air and water resources by virtually eliminating sulfur oxide emissions and harmful particulate matter, lowering harmful nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent and significantly reducing carbon emissions as LNG burns 25 percent cleaner than diesel-powered engines.

LNG will invigorate Louisiana ports and the maritime service industry by dramatically cutting operating costs and significantly reducing harmful emissions.

Thanks to cleaner, more affordable LNG, Louisiana is on the cusp of transforming maritime travel.

And if we all pay close attention, ours can be the next great American generation to find out what it feels like to revolutionize the way the world does business.

Michael J. Oliver, chief executive officer

Committee of 100, Louisiana

Baton Rouge