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Another Benefit of Fracking: Cheap Heat

A rare piece of good news from the Rust Belt: residents of states like Pennsylvania and Ohio will be a little warmer this winter as they cling bitterly, in the President’s famous phrase, to their God and their guns.

The extensive shale gas deposits discovered deep underground in Pennsylvania and Ohio are making (natural) gas cheaper for everyone. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the high volume of gas pumping has sent gas prices plummeting to a two-year low.

What looks like bad news for energy companies is good news for consumers, who will find heating their homes through the winter much cheaper than in years past. In an age of cutbacks, cash-strapped families will be happy to see a drop in the cost of living, freeing up money for other priorities.

This strikes at the heart of a traditional green argument—that rising energy prices will eventually force a conversion to green energy. To hear them tell it, dwindling oil and gas supplies will drive energy prices into the stratosphere, turning the expensive “green” energy sources into profitable enterprises overnight. They’ve been making this argument since the first solar energy boom back in the 1970s, and, so far, nothing.

Meanwhile, the gas boom offers the Rust Belt its best shot to recover.  Brown jobs in the gas and oil energy may not have the glamor of beautiful (though, tragically, mostly imaginary) green jobs, but the pay is good and will help stop the decline of the middle class. And cheap energy won’t just give consumers a few extra bucks in their pockets; it reduces manufacturing costs and gives investors another reason to make a few things in the USA.

Fighting the gas boom while pumping money into corrupt, failing ventures like Solyndra makes good sense to the greens; it makes no sense at all to a lot of middle class voters in the Middle West. You will probably hear a lot about this issue next fall.

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  • Mrs. Davis

    And you will see LNG/CNG stations on I-80 & 76 for commercial vehicles by the end of the decade. It will be interesting to see how soon thereafter, passenger vehicles start appearing in numbers.

  • Kenny

    Just this week, ultra-liberal Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s Democrat U.S. Senator, hedged his words in critizing fracking.

    This was in defiance of the reigning environmental dictate which is ‘no, no, no.’

    Brown’s position is an indication of just how many jobs and other economic benefits (lower heathing cost, for example) fracking is bringing that he dare not openly oppose fracking. (Brown, by the way, is up for re-election in November which might explain his sanity on this issue.)

    This has the Greens down on their hands and knees chewing the rug. In a question between Green ideology and jobs, this most liberal of U.S. senators is siding with economic development.

  • MW

    This is indeed good news!

    However, before you take more shots at government support for green energy, recognize that oil and gas companies continue to be heavily subsidized through a variety of federal and state subsidies. And what about the $1 trillion spent and over 6,000 lives lost defending oil supplies in the Middle East in the last decade?

    By contrast, at the end of 2011 many subsidies for green energy expired, including those for ethanol and renewable power generation.

    Why are we still subsidizing oil companies? They are some of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world. Perhaps you should investigate that story.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    A distinction needs to be made between Energy Supply created Inflation, and Money Supply created Inflation. While American families have lost $6+ Trillion in their net worth with the deflation of falling home prices, and the deflation of falling wages, Energy Prices have been Inflating consumer items like fuel, food, and recently manufactured goods. It is the fault of the Environmentalists who have been blocking the development of cheap energy for many decades including the development of Nuclear, Oil, Coal, and Shale Oil.
    It should be recognized that as Civilization has advanced, energy has replaced muscle power to the extent that energy prices now measure the productivity of our economies. Simply everything we make or do has an energy cost component.

  • Jon

    And don’t forget and additional benefit: once they can set their faucet water on fire, they can just turn the furnace off! This fracking stuff is very very shortsighted and I fear for us all that you’re going to be eating these words.

  • Mark Michael

    Prof Mead, you’re exactly right. There’s some billion-dollar plant being constructed in northern Ohio to manufacture pipe for the pipelines needed to transport that natural gas. There’s also a billion-dollar plant being seriously considered for refining that gas. Natural gas is the raw material for lots of products such as plastics, fertilizers, petrochemical products. It isn’t all used to heat houses and businesses. Fortunately, our Ohio legislature is controlled by R’s who appreciate business and the governor is also an R, John Kasich.

  • Stuart Wilder

    Well, it’s cheap in Pennsylvania because the drillers pay no taxes on what they extract and sell unlike, say Texas. In the meantime, school districts whose budgets have been decimated by mandates to pay tuition to cyber schools are suffering and on the verge of shutting down. like the Chester-Upland School District. Lastly, unlike Herr Professor, my water comes from a watershed (in central Bucks County) where they want to frack it up. I’d rather use my sweater and sweatshort collection than risk having my water taste and smell like pink diesel.

  • Kenny

    To add on to Mark Michael’s thought, Shell Oil is planning to open an ‘ethylene cracker’ plant in the Appalachia region to take advantage of being close to the natural gas from the Marcellus shale. As it stands, Shell has only four such plants in the U.S. and all are located in the Gulf region, so this is a huge development.

    And then there’s Dow chemical. It uses tremendous amount of natural gas as feedstock for many of the 5,000 products which it produces. Dow likewise is thinking of locating some operations in the shale area.

    All this makes for interesting poitics. How will the the Democrats square the circle of the environmental kooks who think flames is going to come out of faucets in the region with the the lure of godd, real jobs?

    The Greens are about to lose their political cover. Fact.

  • Jimmy J.

    We should be shifting to natural gas power for fleets of trucks and buses that leave and return to a depot everyday. That means school buses, utility trucks, garbage trucks, etc. It is relatively simple to provide a natural gas fueling station in such depots and the conversion from gasoline to natural gas is now easy and relatively cheap. This could be started on now and would save fuel costs for fleet operators, as well as reducing demand for oil. If President Obama wanted to decrease the use of oil and go to a cleaner burning fuel, he should be advocating this.

    Fracking techniques are improving and getting cleaner all the time. There is a small company in Canada, Gasfrac Inc., that uses propane as the fracking fluid. The propane can be almost completely recovered and reused again and again. This could be a cleaner, cheaper technique when fully implemented.

  • Greg in Denver

    Please, please, spell this technique correctly.

    It is Fracing, not fracking. The use of fracturing rock, not frack-turing.

    Is that OK to “aks”, or is it still ask?

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