Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Modest Proposal

I've been reading about the EPA roadshow around the country this past week soliciting comments on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.  The process has kicked up the expected furor, especially in its final stop in Binghamton, NY.

I've gotten so tired of the commotion that, in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I've got a Modest Proposal.  I propose that all drilling in the Marcellus Shale be suspended immediately - tomorrow - until there is some kind of consensus on shale gas drilling in the region.

Except for the people of the Appalachian region, it's a win-win:

  1. We don't have to hear the plaintive screams of baseless claims that fracking causes groundwater pollution and methane seepage.  I miss the quiet.  
  2. Without the specter of drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which is estimated to be one of the top five natural gas formations in the world, gas prices might rise to a point where drilling is economical in the rest of the country. Then we could get back to business.

Sure, the Appalachian region will lose the incredible economic stimulus that new drilling provides (new jobs, increased spending in the region from outside the region that circulates through the economy, occupied hotel rooms, increased tax collections, etc.).  But who needs non-governmental economic stimulus in these economic times?  Since the commonwealth of Pennsylvania hasn't been able to get its act together to charge a severance tax on gas, at least it won't be losing that.

Natural gas drilling is nothing new in Appalachia.  It was the home of the first gas wells and drilling has been ongoing for well more than a hundred years.  But the specter of shale gas has created quite the stir.  When large groups of people feel that they are being force-fed something they regard as wrong, it is difficult to achieve progress.  Perhaps there should be a breather in the Marcellus Shale.

What's the hurry anyway?  The gas isn't going anywhere.  Many of our leaders have yet to truly understand and appreciate the economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits of natural gas.  The coal and utility industries still have the gas industry under the heels of their collective boots.  So what's the rush?

Why penalize the entire industry when one region can't get its sh*t together?  Void the leases, return the bonus payments, pack up the rigs and get out of town.  Come back later when everything has been figured out.  Until then, let the rest of us go about our business.

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