Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Editorial Board


“The coronavirus has thrown the shale gas industry into flux. Worldwide oil prices have collapsed, and America’s shale sector has lost 50% of its value since January. The pandemic has exacerbated years of lackluster profits for producers, causing investors to shy away from financing new drilling projects.

Last year, however, saw more natural gas extracted from Pennsylvania’s vast Marcellus Shale than in any other year. With this achievement in mind, let’s consider what a benefit the shale gas boom has been to America and to this region.

Shale industry jobs in Pennsylvania increased from 9,143 in 2007 to 20,146 in 2016, according to analysis by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and this does not include the ancillary economic activity indirectly connected with drilling. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that between 2004 and 2016, the shale gas boom may have contributed $21 billion to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In a recent essay published in The Wall Street Journal, author Daniel Yergin wrote that “The shale revolution has stimulated over $200 billion of investment in new factories, reduced the trade deficit by several hundred billion dollars, generated millions of jobs and contributed significantly to federal and state revenues.”

Since 2010, America’s oil output has more than doubled and gas production has increased by over 50%. The United States now leads the world in the production of both fuels, while also doing more to reduce its energy-based carbon emissions than any other country. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States saw the largest carbon-dioxide emissions decline from electricity generation in 2019 among nations.

Burning natural gas releases much less carbon dioxide than does burning coal. As the fracking revolution led a shift from coal to gas for generating electricity, total greenhouse gas emissions have decreased. A 15% reduction in the use of coal for electricity is what underpinned the decline in overall emissions last year. U.S. emissions are now down almost 1 billion metric tons from their peak in 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country during that period.”

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