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Brown vs. Green in the Rust Belt Battleground

Green complaints about fracking reached a fever pitch over the past year, but Pennsylvania apparently wasn’t listening to them. The Wall Street Journal reports that the state legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that will make state laws more favorable to fracking, culminating a debate that has been raging ever since massive quantities of shale gas were discovered in the state in 2008.

The vote was close, and fell roughly along party lines. Republicans supported the bill because it promises cheaper energy and job creation in an economically depressed state; Democrats opposed it because of the potential for environmental damage and safety hazards.

Don’t doubt for a minute that legislators in other states in the region—many of which may also have shale gas deposits—are reading the tea leaves in this bill’s passage. The industrial states of the Rust Belt desperately need jobs, and judging by the rapid recovery of energy-rich states like North Dakota and Texas, fracking is beginning to look like their best bet for getting them. The historically warm relationship between the greens and local Democrats could grow downright chilly.

And the Big Chill may come sooner rather than later. With election season drawing near, the Rust Belt and its abundance of swing states will increasingly become the central battlefield of Red vs. Blue—and brown vs. green. With brown jobs fueling the recovery while green jobs founder, Dems should brace for a GOP onslaught.

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  • Kris

    “Democrats opposed it because of the potential for environmental damage and safety hazards.”

    I suggest they pledge to sequester any state revenue deriving from fracking, and use it solely for ameliorating any directly attributable damage. Using the revenue for anything else would be unconscionable. Fruits of the poisoned tree and all that.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    I bet Obama reverses his Keyston Pipeline decision before the election.

  • Kenny

    This is yet another issue where the Democratic Party is on the short end of the stick.

    It is also shows how anti-American the Democrats have become since being seized by the Leftists in the early 1970s. Fact.

  • Corlyss

    It won’t matter what the Pennsy legislature does or doesn’t do when the envirothugs turn the EPA loose on frackin’. EPA is like FLOTUS, they practically run this country.

  • Mrs. Davis

    The rust belt also has a lot of Bible Clingers who are appalled by the health care/birth control issue, regardless of denomination. Baraq Hussein and the EPA should be careful how many times he kicks the gun totters in swing states.

  • Mark Buehner

    Yeah, lets see if it actually happens. Its like that much celebrated nuclear plant that was ‘approved’… we’ll see. Permits are just one of the first steps in the Green defensive front, now come the lawyers. And of course the EPA can pull the rug whenever they feel like it.

  • http://islandturtle.blogspot.com Corky Boyd

    Pennsylvania has gotten its act together, while neighboring state New York diddles. Cuomo has been playing politics by trying to satisfy the enviromentalists but knowing he could turn on the money spigots from the drillers whenever it would be advantageous.

    Problem is with the over supply of natural gas and a warm winter dropping the price to $2.50, drillers are cutting back. There are ample sites availble in Pennsylvania along with a friendly business environment, so why go to New York where you have to jump through hoops.

    Cuomo waited too long. The door is closing. Cuomo will host a party nobody comes to.

  • herrman

    If gasoline was ever to get to 20 bucks a gallon we would plug Old Faithful and slap a rig over the stopped-up hole to suck that juice out of the ground. It is in the best interests of environmental protection to insure a reasonably priced supply of petrochemicals into the next century. That’s one of many reasons why so called “greens” are anything but.

  • Whiz

    Although the door might be swinging the other way, in Ohio they are still trying to lock up the mineral rights, moving east to west, toward me. Hoping they want a little piece of my pie when they get here.

  • VA Teacher

    Back in my old hometown in Eastern Ohio, there’s a boom going on in natural gas leases. Marginal farmland that used to be worth barely enough to pay the property taxes is now being leased to energy companies for hefty fees…which all include provisions for significant royalty payments once the gas starts actually flowing. This is quietly building a sizable constituency for any proposal that speeds the process.

    If Obama’s EPA puts the brakes on fracking…he’s going to rile up a lot of natural Democrats who would see it as a hit to their pocketbook. Not to mention local governments who are lustfully imagining what they will be able to do with the higher property taxes that gas sales will bring.

    Now granted…Obama wasn’t all that popular in rural Ohio to begin with, but if he thinks his brave environmental protection stance is going to offset enough Obama-fatigue in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati to make up for these rural losses he’s probably kidding himself.

    In 2008 Obama won a narrow victory in Ohio. There isn’t really any electoral college scenario that has him re-elected without Ohio. This is gonna be interesting…

  • RHD

    There is a lesson in this for both greens and Dems. The greens (at least the most politically active organizations and individuals) have become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dems — one special-interest pressure group among many. When the Dems are calling the shots, their policy positions will often prevail, in part because the greens overlap with other powerful and equally wholly owned Dem-subs (Hollywood, the superrich, lefties generally). The business groups that favor the Dems (Silicon valley, Wall Street) are also often alligned with the greenie-agenda; not so the business groups alligned with the Reps. Other Dem groups — blacks and Latinos especially — have no reason to sign on to the greenies’ anti-growth agenda (how can it help those at the bottom of the economic ladder?), but seem to have bigger fish to fry.

    But there is trouble when other wholly owned subsidiaries of the Dems (i.e., the unions) have an opposite policy position. On a national level, the greenies-Hollywood-lefties alliance is ususally enough to carry the day despite union opposition (e.g., Keystone) but the calculus is different at the state level.

    It’s at the state level that the Dems will have the most trouble keeping it all together, particularly in those states like PA where the clingers holding on to their guns and religion are such an important part of the Dem base. It’s really a problem throughout the entire Scotch-Irish diaspora where Hillary (and McCain) thumped Obama in 2008.

    Not a formula for long-term success by either the greens or the Dems.

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