As New York’s Department of Energy Conservation (DEC) prepares to issue a report on hydraulic fracturing, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens finds himself in a precarious position. As former founder of Catskill Mountainkeepers—your run-of-the-mill anti-energy, anti-hydraulic fracturing group—Martens spent most of his days making sure oil and natural gas producers were creating jobs in Pennsylvania, not New York.
Hydraulic fracturing is effectively banned in New York State (indefinite moratorium) which means that the Utica Shale play, the natural gas formation that stretches from West Virginia to New York, is off-limits. Were NY’s DEC to issue an objective report about the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, the state might begin a measured conversation about increasing energy production, creating jobs, and reducing the state’s budget gap.
Unfortunately, given Martens’s background and predispositions, an objective report and subsequent adult conversation will never occur. What a shame. While New York’s unemployment level is 8.9 percent, it is certainly higher in the state’s rural regions where most of the New York’s energy reserves are found. While Manhattan may be recession proof, much of blue-collar New York is hurting.
Since 2010, development of shale reserves has supported an astounding 600,000 jobs, a number that is only increasing. Adding insult to injury for New York’s unemployed, many of these jobs are found in nearby states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Hydraulic fracturing—a tried and true method of extracting oil and natural gas—coupled with horizontal drilling will continue to be a boon for America’s economy; an estimated 70 percent of natural gas development in the future will come from hydraulic fracturing.
But hydraulic fracturing is much bigger than the oil and natural gas industry. America’s abundance of natural gas has directly fueled a manufacturing renaissance in two ways. Natural gas is cheap, very cheap, which means that electricity prices will decrease. America’s manufacturers, what few are left, are under such immense pressure from globalization that a ten percent drop in electricity prices might make the difference between closing up shop and keeping the lights on. Secondly, chemical companies that use natural gas as a feedstock are literally closing shops abroad and reopening them in the United States.
With all the excitement surrounding American energy development, it is a shame to see New York State on the sidelines.