Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rust Belt Equals Brain Drain

Shale gas boosters are literally banking on the durability of Rust Belt mesofacts. The economy is chronically depressed and young adults are leaving in droves. If you want to score political points, then shout "brain drain!" Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley stoking those very fires:

"Pennsylvania has a challenge to continue to be good stewards of Penn's Woods, but we also have an obligation to the truth, and that we put terms like 'Rust Belt' and 'Brain Drain' onto the ash heap of history," said Cawley.

Concerning the truth, Cawley can't resist tall tales. What that says to me is that he is incapable of making a strong case for shale gas. Cawley must lie in order to convince PA residents that drilling is in their best interests. An obligation to the truth doesn't apply to Cawley. It only applies the anti-fracking crowd.

Cawley is implying that any delay in drilling will exacerbate the brain drain and prolong the Rust Belt misery gripping cities such as Pittsburgh:

State or municipal intervention needs to be smart as well as properly resourced. Prof Glaeser is scathing about the efforts to rehabilitate Detroit, for example, where money was thrown at construction but achieved negligible results.

By contrast, Pittsburgh has transformed itself from a city decimated by the decline of the steel industry on which it was built into a contemporary metropolis of tech clusters and vibrant neighbourhoods. Its success seems to result from a lucky combination of careful, consistent investment and seed money for start-ups from the Pittsburgh Technology Council (established perceptively early in 1983), while it is an ethnically mixed city of lively and distinctive neighbourhoods defined by good restaurants and caf├ęs and, critically, cheap property prices.

Marcellus Shale drilling has pulled Pittsburgh off of the slag heap. It's a jobs bonanza that has people from all over the nation rushing to Southwestern Pennsylvania. The sooty skies and chronic sense of dread that defined Pittsburgh in 2007 is gone. The talent exodus is over. Pittsburgh is an Appalachia boom town.

The rest of Pennsylvania pay heed. You must support drilling as the City of Pittsburgh has or the brain drain will continue. Do not damn your children to a Rust Belt fate. Frack, baby frack.

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