Friday, November 04, 2011

Marcellus Myths

The jobs geography of shale gas continues to elude news coverage. Typically, numbers from industry boosters are cited. These tall tales simply don't match up with the anecdotes showing up in Marcellus Country media:

By 2010, the previously struggling Gosai family hotels were routinely near full, said Gosai, who spoke Thursday during The Greater Cumberland Committee’s monthly meeting. In fact, the entire southwestern Pennsylvania hotel business is “saturated with Marcellus shale drillers,” he said.

The bulk of the drilling jobs are still going to out of state workers. If Pennsylvania started producing more drillers, then that labor supply will ding the hotel business. Or, it might make more sense for the gas industry to ramp up operations elsewhere. Drilling is itinerant work. The result is the same. The hotel boom goes bust.

Nationally, the shale boom (both gas and oil) is going full throttle. Is energy leading this country out of its employment crisis? No. That should be obvious. Instead, David Brooks is passing along the industry hype:

Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come.

Sure, there are parts of Western Pennsylvania that are economically wounded (more about that in a subsequent post). Drilling in the Marcellus Shale has catalyzed some job creation. But the real lift for this region comes from Pittsburgh and its higher education industry. Once known for producing steel, Pittsburgh is now dominated by the production of talent.

As Brooks proves, a good mesofact is hard to kill. The promise of shale extraction jobs is full of such mesofacts. If we can only keep those wacko environmentalists from killing the goose laying the golden egg. The hyperbole on both sides of the debate is irritating. Brooks feeds this polarization with stock stereotypes and makes energy a much bigger election issue than it should be.


Anonymous said...

You keep making assertions that are unsupported by the evidence. Are the bulk of drilling jobs going to out of state residents? I don't know, and neither do you. The fact that hotels are full in the drilling areas is not proof that "the bulk", "the majority", or "the majority" of drilling jobs (in SW PA or elsewhere in the state) are going to out-of-staters. What I do know is that if you drive through Southpointe you can see thousands of new Marcellus jobs that 1) are not going to out-of-state people and 2) were not there two years ago, whether or not they're showing up in state data snapshots.

Jim Russell said...

Actually, I do know that the bulk of drilling jobs are going to out of state residents. And the hotel evidence is as good, if not better, than your Southpointe anecdote. But I guess what is good enough for your claims isn't good enough for mine. Nice double standard.

Paul Wittibschlager said...

The jobs may be going out of state but rest assured, the environmental impact is staying squarely inside PA. So future generations will have something to remember these wonderful economic times.