OUR OPINION: To Drill Or Not To Drill

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Our state’s new Marcellus Shale natural-gas play has not lit up our economic scoreboard since it began to be developed in 2007. Natural gas has been a valuable new industry, but drilling by itself has made few land-owners and few municipalities rich, and has not created many local jobs. Much of the money flows out of state – continuing the sad history of Pennsylvania’s natural resources. There’s a reason why the Pennsylvania Society has spent its money outside Pennsylvania for more than a century.

Nevertheless, citizens should embrace its development. The idea of turning Southeastern Pennsylvania into an “energy hub” by developing connections with the gas plays is appealing and practical. But we should avoid cheap, quick giveaways with costly, long-lasting damages.

There is no rush. Why pump our gas today, at low prices in depressed markets? These natural resources can’t go anywhere; they’ll be worth money in 2025 and 2035 as well as today – more so, perhaps. When energy prices are tanking around the world, prudent managers wait to sell later.

We welcome Gov. Tom Wolf’s modest new brakes on questionable drilling under public land. We don’t need more gas production at this time. Sensible development of pipeline infrastructure comes first.

In the meantime … let the Keystone State also invest in the key industries it is traditionally good at – beyond extraction. Let us talk eds and meds, tourism and transportation, intensive agriculture and sophisticated metal-bashing. Let us talk value added. This is where the long-term future lies for us. Energy bubbles puff up and pop. Welcome them when they come … but prepare in advance to live without them when they fade away.

The most-reliable long-term winning industries are intelligence and skills that can be steadily applied to changing markets. We should prioritize building up industries that are owned by local companies, in fields that cannot be exhausted.

That’s true in spades for Philadelphia, which does best when its economy is diversified. It’s in our city’s interest to steer the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania toward varied models of economic development – not just of the Marcellus Shale, but of all growth industries that matter.

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One Response to OUR OPINION: To Drill Or Not To Drill

  1. What a wishy-washy cop-out. “Sensible development of pipeline infrastructure comes first.” Are you suggesting we continue to fragment our forests, contaminate water resources, usurp productive farmland, seize private property and divide communities with polluting natural-gas infrastructure in the hope that at some point in the future the “energy bubble” will “puff up” again?

    E. Dober
    February 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm

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