A Homegrown, Shovel-Ready Green Jobs Program -- That Will Work!

Right now, today, we have an available source of energy that accomplishes the stated policy goals of the Obama Administration, by:

  • Reducing our reliance on imported oil.
  • Creating good-paying, green jobs for Americans.
  • Reducing greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants.
  • Providing affordable energy from a totally domestic, proven source in virtually inexhaustable amounts.

Of course, nothing’s perfect. This energy source comes with some distinct DISADVANTAGES, being contrary to the Administration’s goals:

  • It’s not government-centric.
  • It won’t allow the Administration to throw a sop to ACORN, SEIU or powerful Democrats in Washington.
  • American corporations (and American investors) sometimes actually make a profit on it.
  • Winners and losers are determined in the marketplace, not by government diktat.

So, I can see already why this fuel might not be popular with the current Administration, but some folks might even interpret those disadvantages as ADVANTAGES.

The U.S. has almost unlimited resources of NATURAL GAS. It is a clean, abundant and secure fuel: its source is almost entirely domestic. At today’s prices, it deliver a unit of energy at a third of the cost of oil and with about half of the carbon footprint per unit of energy as oil or coal. We have existing transportation infrastructure in place covering nearly the entire country.

Advances in drilling and production technology have unlocked the natural gas potential of shales, rock formations long believed to be non-productive. Industry’s recent success in producing natural gas from other shale formations (especially the Barnett Shale of Texas, the Haynesville of Louisiana, the Fayetteville of Arkansas, and others) has opened up the biggest, highest-potential natural gas play in the Eastern U.S., one that covers much of Western Pennsylvania: the Marcellus Shale.

A Penn State study reported in World Oil indicates the current and potential economic impact of the development of the Marcellus Shale for the State of Pennsylvania. As you read the following statistics, consider that PA is currently #15 on the list of natural gas producing states.

Marcellus Shale development expected to create 98,000 Pennsylvania jobs by 2010

The development of the Marcellus Shale will pump $14.17 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy in 2010 and create more than 98,000 jobs, while generating $800 million in state and local tax revenues, according to an economic study completed by the Pennsylvania State University for the Marcellus Shale Committee and the [bipartisan] Pennsylvania House Natural Gas Caucus.

The study notes a consistent increase in annual drilling and projects a $25 billion contribution to the Commonwealth’s economy in the year 2020. This level of activity would generate almost $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue and create more than 176,000 new jobs.

Natural gas production had a $2.3 billion direct impact on Pennsylvania’s economy in 2008, adding more than 29,000 new jobs and $240 million in state and local tax revenue. More than thirty-percent of all tax revenues remain at the level local.

The industry will contribute a cumulative economic impact to the state of $265 billion by 2020, along with nearly $15 billion in state and local revenue. The study includes direct, indirect and induced jobs, and economic activity from Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania.

The study estimates that the Marcellus Shale may contain 2,445 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in place with recoverable reserves amounting to 489 trillion cubic feet – or enough natural gas to last the entire United States for more than 20 years. …

According to the Energy Information Association (EIA), natural gas usage is expected to increase more than 20% through the 2020 in the United States and 40% worldwide. The EIA also indicates that 57% of all new electric generation will come from natural gas, which is more than all other sources combined. [emphasis added]

Now, I will be the first to point out the optimism, bordering on boosterism, inherent in these state studies. (Another example is the much-hyped report of the State Geologic Survey of North Dakota on the Bakken Shale.)

That being said, it’s hard to understand why the Administration has given little more than lip service to placing a bigger emphasis on natural gas, at least a a bridge to the promised future of wind and solar energy, which remain heavily dependent on government subsidy to be economically competitive, while making up less than 1% of current electrical generating capacity. Proposed changes in tax policy punish natural gas drilling, and most of this burden falls on the independent producers who drill 90% of America’s gas wells.