New Castle News


May 15, 2014

Our Opinion: Shale boom shows its ability to generate jobs

NEW CASTLE — There’s money to be made from shale gas operations.

That’s not exactly news. Obviously, drillers are profiting from the gas they extract from the ground. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it.

And landowners have benefited financially from leasing property. Plus, if drilling actually occurs, they receive royalties from any gas removed.

But the economic opportunities from shale gas are far more than that. As the industry has expanded, both locally and throughout the state, it has become increasingly clear that natural gas production is becoming the dominant source of economic growth in this area. Almost certainly, that trend will continue well into the future.

Some of this growth remains speculative. For instance, it’s uncertain if Shell will build its proposed cracker plant in Monaca. If it does, it will become a major employer in the region, and spawn significant support industries.

Yet even without that possibility, an article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the New Castle News offers an insight into how the shale gas industry is reshaping the region’s economy. And because the impact is spread out, the public may not notice it.

The article in question highlighted a recently created company, Vulcan Oilfield Services, based in New Castle. It operates equipment that tests the amount of gas or oil being produced by shale wells.

While the company currently employs only about 30 people, that’s 30 jobs that didn’t exist locally before. And the firm is growing.

Vulcan is just one example of how the shale industry is generating a need for new employment. Not only are local jobs being created to support drilling and fracking operations, but there is also construction of gas lines, equipment maintenance, transportation and a variety of support services.

Presumably, many of these jobs will have staying power. The shale gas boom is expected to last for decades. And while it is going on, it will be creating local jobs.

Yes, there are drawbacks to drilling. Economic activity of any type can create lifestyle inconveniences. And more to the point, energy extraction always comes with its own set of environmental risks. Although widespread, shale drilling activities — particularly the fracking process — come with an element of danger and uncertainty. In some cases, citizens are strongly concerned about the consequences and oppose drilling operations.

These are reasons for solid environmental oversight. But until there is no longer a need for natural gas and other fossil fuels (something that’s unlikely in the near future), the shale boom and the jobs it creates will continue to impact the region.

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