UPDATED: Angry Alec Baldwin Rocks the Shale Gas World? No, It’s Complicated!
UPDATE II: Angry Alec Baldwin has doubled down and gone after yet another photographer before the investigation of the earlier incidents chronicled below is even finished. This guy is giving a new meaning to “out-of-control.” It looks like he’s single-handedly created a new category of intermittent explosive disorder called “photo rage.” Also, he appears not to have taken the standard advice for this condition, namely, to “Pretend a camera is on you. You’re much less likely to rant at the creep who stole your parking space if you imagine yourself as a joke on YouTube.” What do you do when a guy already is a joke on YouTube (see below) and he does it again anyway? I wish I had an answer, but this much I know – making this man a spokesperson for your anti-natural gas campaign just isn’t smart. Now, if only we could find someone to proffer some advice in that regard, maybe we’d start getting somewhere. Here’s the latest:
UPDATE I: Angry Alec Baldwin has struck again, suggesting our anti-natural gas friends really bought into a bad deal with his endorsement of their cause. Check out this story about Alec’s run-in with a photographer hoping to catch some photos of the happy husband to be coming out of the Marriage License Bureau with a certificate entitling him to marry the yoga instructor. She’ll certainly need to be the calm one in that relationship and will require every bit of serenity yoga can offer. One hopes she knows Bill Huston, who can counsel her on some exercises and maybe she can even entice Alec to take up some new habits or at least get the guy on the Prozac! Here’s a picture from the Daily News, followed by our original story:
Alec Baldwin is, without a doubt, one of today’s best comedic actors, if not the best. He plays the hapless, but lovable, rogue like nobody else can. His real life is anything but endearing, though. His world-class divorce from Kim Basinger, his phone tirade with his teenage daughter, his fight with a flight attendant over her instructions to stop Tweeting and his expressed desire to stone a member of U.S. House of Representatives suggests he’s more of a cad than anything.
Moreover, the bad behavior hardly ends there. Alec Baldwin is, clearly, one very angry individual, and pretty arrogant besides, despite his ability to make us laugh. That’s what makes me so puzzled our opponents would put him out front, as they did recently, at events in Syracuse. One wonders why they didn’t use someone more credible, like Homer Simpson. I guess “it’s complicated.” What’s not complicated, however, are the answers to Baldwin’s shale gas objections, which were pitiful at best.
The hype leading up to the Alec Baldwin appearance in Syracuse at a Gasland showing was, as usual, overblown. It was considerably deflated by the event itself, however, and the discussion that followed. Here’s Alec Baldwin commenting on the issue at hand:
Baldwin starts off by saying the following:
“The average person, the overwhelming majority of people in our society, when you can prove to them that an activity causes cancer, that potentially causes cancer to an elevated number of people than is normal, that’s a no-brainer, they know what to do and how to react. I trust people to do that.”
Huh? Leaving aside the lack of any evidence whatsoever hydraulic fracturing or any other aspect of natural gas development causes cancer and the existence of much information to the contrary, this line begs for explanation. What exactly did he say? We can’t be sure, but it does illustrate the wisdom of that old Spanish proverb “If you keep your mouth shut, the flies won’t get in,” doesn’t it?
Sensing the flies had gotten in, Alec shifts gears into a subject the overwhelming majority of people trust every comedic actor to know a lot about – economics. They teach that at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, you know. All the great economists went there – Matt Dillon, Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, et al. Here’s what Alec had to say on the subject:
“In New York right now, the Governor and the Legislature, everyone is talking jobs, jobs, jobs, and they’re going to come here and they’re going to decimate the area, and a lot of the money is going to leave this area and go with the technical expertise down to Louisiana, down to Texas. They’re going to raise the price of natural gas through their market manipulation and then they’re going to start selling this stuff overseas. This is not going to lower the price of energy in the United States in the long term. However, what I want to point out is that when that decimation is over, when they’ve pumped from 50,000 to 100,ooo Marcellus wells in the New York and Northern Pennsylvania area and they’re done, an area that is already economically challenged, all their homes will be worth infinitely less and we will have passed on to the next generation and generations a community that has been decimated by this activity.”
It’s hard to use the word “decimation” three times in four sentences, but that’s what they teach you at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute about economics – say it loudly, say it often and people will believe you. The facts are irrelevant and there’s no need to quote them. Just assert, assert and assert. Three times gets it done. Well, not so much. Let’s examine a few of those angry claims.
Baldwin is, obviously, channeling Deborah Rogers in his claims about market manipulation. Scott Cline dispensed with much of that nonsense in his Mother of All Spin series of posts on this blog, but even an economist from the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute should be able to figure out that an industry adept at market manipulation wouldn’t engineer the very low prices that prevail today. They’re not particularly good for the industry, but they are utterly fantastic for consumers. PSE&G’s New Jersey customers have seen rate cuts totaling 39% since 2009. UGI customers have received a 40% rate cut over the last four years due to Marcellus Shale development. Con Edison natural gas customers received an 11.5% rate cut this year. Rate cuts, rate cuts, rate cut’s – if you’re Baldwin it’s worse than “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Baldwin also articulates, if you can call it that, the premise that shale gas jobs come from and go to Louisiana and Texas because that’s where the expertise is. Like Jannette Barth, he proceeds from an implicit assumption New Yorkers aren’t smart enough to learn these skills, which, given his statements, is perhaps a possibility in his own case, but let’s not go there. I don’t want to come off angry like …well, like Alec Baldwin when he called an interviewer “a no-talent former construction worker hack like you.” You would think Baldwin might have noticed that job creation is way up, unemployment is way down and wages are up throughout Pennsylvania’s gas region. Check out the following:
Marcellus Shale core industries (such as drilling, gas extracting, pipe laying, and similar support activities) provides more than 20,300 jobs in the commonwealth.
All Marcellus Shale-related industries (including ancillary industries such as trucking and testing laboratories) employ more than 214,000 people.
For the last three quarters, the average pay in core industries was more than $76,000. For comparison, the average salary in all industries in Pennsylvania was less than $45,500.
While the commonwealth saw new hires across all industries fall 8.3% in 2011 compared to 2008, statewide hires in core Marcellus industries are up 138 percent.
In August, there was 3,600 online job postings for Marcellus Shale-related industries.
This isn’t all, of course. Bradford County has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Pennsylvania since Marcellus Shale development made it’s debut there. I guess “economically challenged” upstate New York doesn’t need any of that. Well, certainly not if you’re an actor and one trained in economics to boot.
Finally, Baldwin claims to know upstate residents’ “homes will be worth infinitely less” after Marcellus Shale development. Once again, it’s just a supposition, the kind actors get to make when they’re trained in economics at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Notwithstanding the compelling nature of that expert qualification, the evidence is to the contrary. As I noted here, we found the following:
We learned, based on eight comparable sales over the last year (some 336 acres in land in total), that farmland values in Bradford County, Pennsylvania averaged $6,984 per acre for properties of 10 acres or more. Fourteen sales in Susquehanna County (1,182 acres) averaged $4,993 per acre. Sullivan and Wyoming County properties averaged $5,579 and $7,215 per acre, respectively. Lycoming County saw an average value of $4,547. Not bad, right?
Now, compare this to similarly rural Wayne County, which is still waiting on the DRBC to allow gas exploration, where the average was $2,921 per acre; or Pike County, where it was $3,168 per acre, despite both counties being much closer the New York City, that factor having traditionally driven property values in those areas. Indeed, it made Pike among the fastest growing counties in the nation in recent years and property values had risen steadily there as a result. Lackawanna County (e.g., Clarks Summit, North Pocono areas), despite being a much more urban area, likewise only produced an average value of $3,889 per acre. The divergence in values is pretty startling, to say the least.
We can also compare these values to some recent numbers for New York State where we found agricultural properties in counties generally adjoining Bradford and Susquehanna Counties (Broome, Chemung, Steuben and Tioga Counties) sold for prices of $1,200 to $2,400 and typically well below $2,000 per acre. Because New York is a high tax state across the board, there is always a discounted value compared to properties in lower tax Pennsylvania, but we are talking a 3:1 ratio here, which is hardly explainable by taxes alone. Do you think it might just have something to do with natural gas?
A review of sales patterns over the last several years provides a clue. We did similar studies last year to update reports done by other consultants. We found the average value for Bradford and Susquehanna County was only $4,113 per acre then, and the year before another consultant suggested the figure was $3,278 per acre.
… there were 10 single-family home sales in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County (you may have heard of it) over the last 12 months. Sales information was available for six of these and they sold for an average price of $79.47 per square foot, though some were rated in poor condition. The average lot size was 1.87 acres. The newest was built in 2000 and one was over 90 years old. Sales histories were available for three units previously sold in the years 2001 and 2006 and none suffered any decline in value. The average gain in value was 34%. It doesn’t look like property value destruction to me.
So much for that argument. I doubt Alec Baldwin has ever visited Bradford County to see the “decimation” but, of course, he’d call it that regardless what he saw. That’s a good actor, and Alec Baldwin, if nothing else is a darned good actor. After all, that’s what they teach you at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute (School of Economics).
P.S. I almost forgot those Capital One advertisements Alec Baldwin does so well. They’re great! What’s even better is the fact Capital One does something called “energy banking” which they describe as follows:
Close coordination between our experienced relationship managers and in-house petroleum engineers allows Capital One to effectively serve various energy sectors. Targeted energy industry segments include:
- Oil and gas exploration and production companies
- Midstream operators
- Crude oil refiners
Hmm …Alec Baldwin the energy banker …it’s a beautiful thing isn’t it?