*UPDATE* Report: Oil and Gas Development Supports Outdoor Recreation
UPDATE (8/27/2013; 9:00 am ET): A new video series from the Western Energy Alliance portrays another example of how the oil and natural gas industry is working to promote the development of our energy resources, while also protecting or even enhancing the natural environment.
As fourth generation rancher Scott Chew notes, “we’ve learned, through communication, to pat each other on the back and to help each other…there are areas that are actually better now because of the reclamation work that was done than they were before.”
Watch the full video from the Western Energy Alliance here:
—Original Post 8/22/13–
A new study released this week confirmed that oil and natural gas production is not only providing a positive economic impact, but also occurring in harmony with outdoor recreation and conservation activities. The study, conducted by professors from Southern Utah University and Utah State University with funding from the American Petroleum Institute (API), examined how counties across the nation are balancing two key industries: energy production and amenity development, a term used to describe a number of activities related to outdoor recreation.
As the study states, “the economic growth resulting from extractive industries allows counties to diversify their economic portfolios that include both energy extraction and the development of amenities.”
According to the study, energy development has spurred investing in communities through tax revenues and royalties, increasing counties’ access to employment while also facilitating new investment in the amenity and recreational sectors.
“Energy development can directly promote the amenity sector by providing counties the funding necessary to develop and market available amenities. Together, these two sectors can comprise an integral part of a county’s economy. Though some research promotes one type of development as preferable to another, a more nuanced reading of the literature suggests that counties that try to balance energy extraction activities and amenity development have healthier economies.” (p.7)
Take Bradford County in northeast Pennsylvania. As of September 2012, development of the Marcellus shale has raised more than $160 million for landowners in the county. And as this latest study shows, this economic growth is not occurring at the expense of the county’s ecological attractions:
“Natural gas drilling in Bradford County has had positive economic benefits such as job creation, increased household income from lease and royalty payouts, and increased tax revenues. Lease and royalty payments have been used to strengthen other industries in the county (e.g., agriculture, hotels), which creates a strong and growing mixed economy. Additionally, tax revenue increases have allowed government officials to increase government spending and support of tourism and amenity ventures. Bradford County clearly demonstrates that energy extraction and amenity development are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they together provide positive economic outcomes for county residents.” (p.108)
This is happening all across the nation. As shale reserves are discovered and developed, the production of once inaccessible energy resources is creating vital tax revenues, which counties and states can use to support their own amenity industries.
“For example, Bradford County in Pennsylvania, Moffat County in Colorado, and McKenzie County in North Dakota all use tax revenues related to the energy extraction industry to fund projects such as museum renovations, maintenance of recreational paths, and historic associations. …In other counties (e.g., Monterey County and Bradford County), payments to land owners have allowed farmers and ranchers to keep their land and their lifestyle. The economic growth resulting from extractive industries allows counties to diversify their economic portfolios that include both energy extraction and the development of amenities.” (p. 6)
Even out in California, a state known for everything from oil and wine to beaches and mountains, energy development and tourism are not occurring at the expense of the other:
“Known internationally for its natural beauty, California has cultivated a tourism industry that is important, if not vital, to local communities around the state. As the third-largest petroleum producing state in the United States, California communities also rely on the high-paying jobs and valuable revenue streams that come from the oil and gas industry.”
The study also highlights the critical intersection between job wages and number of jobs available. While both industries have created thousands of jobs across the country, oil and gas jobs historically provide higher wages, while the amenity industry has a higher number of total jobs. As such, the two are perfect complements to one another in supporting a growing and working economy.
“Energy extraction operations offer higher-paying jobs, while hospitality and recreation operations employ greater numbers of people. A county’s economic well-being depends on having both high-paying jobs and a large number of jobs. For the 10 counties that developed resources in both sectors in 2011, average annual pay in the upstream oil and gas sector was almost five times higher than in the hospitality and recreation sector ($76,000 vs. $16,000), but the hospitality and recreation sector employed three times more people per county (6,000 vs. 2,000) (BLS, 2011).” (p.7)
While those who oppose oil and natural gas production like to pit the environment against energy development, the reality much different. Not only is shale development buoying our national economy – adding up to four percent to the entire U.S. annual GDP – it is also providing tangible benefits for the environment. Instead of the activists’ either-or, its looks like shale development is truly a win-win.