Fracking Jobs   Leave a comment

Natural gas is already a critical part of America’s energy portfolio and consequently a critical part of the country’s economic growth. It provides over 25% of electricity generation, but it also provides feedstock for fertilizers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, waste treatment, and food processing. It is the largest energy source for home heating and fuels industrial boilers.  The abundance of shale gas brings the possibility of low, stable prices. North America has approximately 4.2 quadrillion (4,244 trillion) cubic feet of recoverable natural gas that would supply 175 years worth of natural gas at current consumption rates. Further, the National Petroleum Council estimates that fracking will allow 60-80% of all traditionally-drilled wells during the next 10 years to remain viable.

The abundance of natural gas makes the United States an attractive place to do business for energy-intensive industries. Royal Dutch Shell recently announced plans to build a petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania, cited the proximity to natural gas production as the reason for the location. The $2 billion plant will create 10,000 construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs for Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Shuttered steel towns like Youngstown, Ohio (where pipe and tube producer, V&M Star, is building a factory to manufacture seamless piples for hydraulic fracturing), are seeing a re-emergence of manufacturing employment opportunities. That one factory will employ 350 people.

I have a special interest in North Dakota because my mom is from there and I still have distant relatives living there. The average worker in the oil and gas sector in the Bakkan oil and gas fields earns more than $90,000 a year — a sum so large that it’s pushed up incomes in non-oil sectors. The overwhelming majority of these oil jobs require a high school degree or less. The oil and gas workforce in North Dakota has increased from 5,000 in 2005 to more than 30,000 today.  North Dakota recently approved a budget that increased 12% over the previous two-year cycle.

So what’s the problem? Is there really one?

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