Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

January 2, 2013

Natural gas growth Marcellus shale projections encouraging

— A new study is predicting that West Virginia’s vast Marcellus shale field could support more than 29,000 jobs by 2020, and 58,000 by the year 2035.

That is — of course — if the industry is allowed to continue shale-gas development in the Mountain State, and if the federal government doesn’t attempt to curtail natural gas growth as we have seen in recent years with coal.

The report issued last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy says the natural gas industry has already created more than 11,800 direct and indirect jobs in the state and generated about $283 million this year alone in tax revenue. Those revenues could hit $884 million a year for state and local governments by 2020, the Associated Press reported. In all, the study predicts West Virginia could see more than $25 billion in shale-driven revenues between 2012 and 2035.

Last week’s report is the second of a three-part study co-sponsored by the institute, which launched a campaign to promote gas drilling in July. The findings of the study are encouraging, and paint a brighter future for West Virginia — if the industry growth is not impeded by the federal government.

For their part — environmentalist are already working hard to slow the Marcellus shale gas boon. Several environmental and citizens’ groups claim groundwater will be contaminated by the process known as hydraulic fracturing, which uses water and chemicals to break gas deposits free from rock. They also suggest that the process will create air pollution, and damage to roads and streams. Several groups are calling for a moratorium on drilling.

Time will now only tell if the industry will be allowed to grow, or if the federal government will intervene, and attempt to curtail this great energy boon potential. All eyes are now on President Barack Obama to see who he will pick to succeed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and whether or not this person will be reasonable and willing to work with the coal and natural gas industries.

Just imagine what 29,000 new jobs, and ultimately 59,000 new jobs, could mean not only for West Virginia, but America. And just imagine what this emerging industry could do in terms of meeting America’s future energy needs.

We must be willing to embrace this emerging industry. The vast Marcellus shale field offers not only great potential to West Virginia, but our nation as a whole. The industry should be allowed to grow and prosper. And the same goes for the still strong coal industry of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

A common sense national energy policy should include all abundantly available fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas, in addition to wind, solar and the other green energy sources so strongly advocated by the Obama administration.

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