11.29.2011 0

Energy Innovations in Louisiana Could Guide Policy Changes in the Northeast

By Kevin Mooney — Manufacturing jobs are coming back to Louisiana thanks to innovations in the energy industry that pressure groups in the northeast are attempting to block. The substantial deposits of natural gas that are now available could create about 35,000 jobs in the state as key industries mobilize to exploit these resources, according to the American Chemical Council (ACC).

Shale gas “provides the opportunity for what will be a renaissance in chemical manufacturing in the United States, and Louisiana is uniquely positioned to capitalize on that,” ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley, has been quoted as saying. “The $5.4 billion investment in expanded ethylene production capacity in Louisiana will generate a total of $10.9 billion in additional chemical industry output, bringing the state’s industry revenues to $56.9 billion and maintaining it as the country’s second-largest chemical-producing state.”

Natural gas supplies that were previously beyond human reach can now be extracted from layers of shale rock located deep below earth’s surface. This has industry officials excited, but environmental pressure groups are in a state of panic. Additional natural gas production works against their policy schemes built around the idea of forcing the federal government to restrict fossil production. The idea here is to force the public onto alternative or renewable energy sources.

In the more industrialized areas of the country that are reliant on cheap, affordable energy, the “fracking” revolution has meet up with little resistance. The story is much different in the liberal northeast where the political class is succumbing to pressure groups.

In June, the New Jersey state legislature voted 32-1 in the Senate and 56-11 in the Assembly to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing. In response, Gov. Chris Christie agreed to a one-year moratorium on the process. Meanwhile, New York’s department of environmental conservation appears poised to implement a regulatory scheme that will ban, restrict and manage various forms of fracking in that state. Anti-drilling activists are also stepping up efforts in Pennsylvania, according to a report from the Commonwealth Foundation.

The green movement is upset because a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, is open to new development, thanks to “fracking.” Even worse, from their point of view, a group of Penn State economists have concluded that development of the Marcellus Shale has helped to alleviate the current recession.

The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) at  the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has launched a projected called Fractracker.org that was made possible with an endowment from the Heinz Foundation. The site includes an anti-drilling blog.

The future is there for new manufacturing, and new job creation in the northeast. But it’s clear that business groups and average citizens have a much tougher fight on their hands given how potent and well-funded the environmental groups are in their part of the country.

Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.

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