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Frack Baby Frack
The Shale Boom Is Bigger Than You Might Think

The shale revolution has made a huge splash in our country’s energy mix and sent ripples throughout the U.S. economy. But as the WSJ reports, we’re only seeing the beginning of the many knock-on benefits these new domestic reserves are bringing:

Sasol is building a 3,034-acre energy complex near a bayou in Lake Charles, La. Tapping into cheap, fracked natural gas as well as the pipeline and shipping infrastructure along the Gulf Coast, Sasol plans to spend as much as $21 billion there…It is expensive, elaborate and dirty work. Sasol plans to reduce, or “crack,” the gas into ethylene, a raw chemical used in plastics, paints and food packaging. It also plans to convert the gas into high-quality diesel and other fuels, using a process once advanced by Nazi scientists to power Panzer tanks. The state of Louisiana is even kicking in $2 billion of incentives to make it happen. […]

We are building a Qatar on the Bayou. From whole cloth, companies are laying new cities of fertilizer plants, boron manufacturers, methanol terminals, polymer plants, ammonia factories and paper-finishing facilities. In computer renderings, the Sasol site looks like a fearsome, steel-fitted Angkor Wat.

In all, some 66 industrial projects—worth some $90 billion—will be breaking ground over the next five years in Louisiana, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance. Tens of billions of other new investments could be coming, says Louisiana’s economic development secretary, Stephen Moret. How many projects will actually get built remains to be seen.

Natural gas liquids are an important feedstock in chemical manufacturing, and the sweet scent of cheap shale gas has attracted plenty of new manufacturing from abroad, including some German industry looking for alternatives to the country’s sky-high electricity prices (which are partly a result of cockamamie green schemes).

When industrial inputs are cheap, manufacturers flourish, and right now U.S. natural gas is very cheap indeed. This won’t last forever, but states like Louisiana are certainly making hay while the sun is shining.

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