Not Even the Wizards of Scare Can Stop the Shale Gas Revolution
My Irish nephew tells me there’s shale gas under the farm that’s been in our family for four centuries. “That’s nice,” I tell him. “Get a lawyer for the landmen and ear plugs for the wind and solar crowd.”
In Otsego County, it’s four years into the shale revolution already. Nationally we’re watching the reversal of dependence on foreign oil (and natural gas). Internationally, power relationships are shifting as historic (and unfriendly) producers are no longer in the drivers seat. Now, even Ireland has a shot at energy independence.
The anti’s concentrate on politics and silly gimmicks, assuming their scare tactics are permanently rooted in the public consciousness. That’s a bad assumption. Reality eventually prevails, shredding the curtain of negativity created by our local press. You can‘t hide reality forever.
In Realville, people drive through Pennsylvania. They don’t see the Dante’s Inferno painted by the anti’s. They see economic activity and prosperity. When they talk to Pennsylvanians, sure, they hear about a traffic pinch point in Towanda and the problem (now solved) in Dimock, but they overwhelming hear the positives – better roads, better schools, full employment, retention of working farms, increased contributions to charities, greater opportunities, the young returning for jobs.
Here’s what Andrew Maykuth reported at Philly.com just a few days ago:
A new national study says Pennsylvania, where Marcellus Shale drilling is expanding dramatically, is expected to lead in job growth attributed to unconventional natural gas development.
An industry-sponsored study by IHS Global Insight found that unconventional gas production, including shale gas development, supported more than one million jobs nationwide in 2010 and was projected to grow to nearly 1.5 million jobs by 2015.
Unconventional gas production supported nearly 57,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in 2010, 13,600 of those directly, according to the study, which projected that the industry would support 111,000 jobs in the Keystone State by 2015, including 26,000 directly. Most of the employment is indirect, through suppliers, or induced through increased economic activity.
The report, commissioned by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, is the latest industry study touting the benefits of unconventional gas development, which uses horizontal-drilling methods and hydraulic-fracturing techniques to liberate natural gas from impermeable source rocks, such as shale, coal beds, and tight sands.
In the past, most natural gas was produced conventionally by drilling into reservoirs, where natural gas had migrated over millions of years and collected in large concentrations. But conventional reserves are in decline, leading to more unconventional exploration.
Unconventional drilling, which has attracted intense opposition for causing environmental and social disruptions, is fast becoming the norm. The study says unconventional drilling will account for 67 percent of natural gas production by 2015 and 79 percent by 2035.
Pennsylvania, where gas-related employment is expected to grow at an annual compounded rate of 14 percent between 2010 and 2015, is expected to surpass Louisiana and Colorado among the top four states for unconventional gas production, and by 2020 will be second only to Texas. The study projects gas production will support 270,000 jobs in Pennsylvania by 2035.
The report is an expansion of a study IHS released in December that focused only on shale gas, which makes up most unconventional gas production. The new report also attempts to quantify state-by-state economic impacts, including in states where gas is not being produced.
The study is available on the IHS website: www.ihs.com/UnconventionalNaturalGasStudies
In Realville, people listen. Soon they start commuting the 100 miles to jobs with benefits. Next they’re moving closer to those jobs and the opportunities afforded. These people also talk, further tearing back the curtain, revealing the Wizard of Scare.
There are too many variables to predict when gas development will come to Otsego County. But it will come. With five distinct formations only 180 miles from the stoves and furnaces of Queens and other Northeast markets, gas will be extracted.
So, to the Wizards of Scare, I only have one word.
Note: An version of this article appeared in the Oneonta Star.