walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Fracking Brings Manufacturing Back to Rust Belt

So not only is the U.S. about to take the global lead in oil production; a new piece in the Wall Street Journal reports that the glut of cheap gas, which is difficult and expensive to transport abroad, has made America one of the cheapest places to manufacture many energy-intensive materials. This is particularly true in the Rust Belt states where the gas is extracted, and the area is already beginning to see the results as manufacturers begin to open plants in the region. And with the plants come jobs:

It isn’t just Beaver County reaping the benefits of cheap gas. Plunging prices have turned the U.S. into one of the most profitable places in the world to make chemicals and fertilizer, industries that use gas as both a feedstock and an energy source. And they have slashed costs for makers of energy-intensive products such as aluminum, steel and glass.

“The U.S. is now going to be the low-cost industrialized country for energy,” the energy economist Philip Verleger says. “This creates a base for stronger economic growth in the United States than the rest of the industrialized world.” . . .

Natural gas [is] difficult to transport across oceans and is most efficiently consumed in the same continent where it is produced. That means the glut of gas hitting the market will result in the U.S. having lower prices than other major industrial economies for years to come.

It is a stroke of good luck that the energy revolution has not only come to America, but is concentrated in the areas that have been hardest hit by the changing economic trends of the past quarter-century. Greens may wail, but the expansion of fracking and unconventional extraction techniques offers the best hope of recovery to many of America’s hardest-hit cities and towns.

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