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Marcellus Can Swing the Swing States

November 5, 2012

The election may well boil down to a handful of swing states. Ohio and Pennsylvania are two of the most critical for Obama. It is inconceivable that Obama could lose those two states, with their 38 electoral votes, and win the election. Is there anything at this late date which Romney might do to make an extra pitch to voters in those northern industrial states?

Yes. A news story that broke on October 20 ought to raise lots of eyebrows in those states. Two separate studies, one by Standard and Poor's and the other by ITG Investment Research, determined that Obama's U.S. Energy Information Administration had dramatically underestimated the size of the Marcellus Shale Gas Field.

How badly off were Obama's bureaucrats? The field is three times richer than the Obama administration thought, and the field may hold half of the proven gas reserves in America. This is from a federal agency which is intended to provide independent information and statistics. Was this simply typical Obama incompetence, or was it typically Obama calculated mendacity? Who knows, but Obama's people wildly miscalculated how much cheap energy lies in the field.

Moreover, the gas seems likely to be very cheap to extract. Natural gas is a very clean energy resource, but as a fossil fuel -- an energy resource which actually works -- it leaves leftists cold. Where is the Marcellus Field? It stretches from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and Ohio and into New York.

A federal government aggressively committed to removing regulatory obstacles to the exploration and production in this field could very quickly create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio (the average pay at one of those sites is $83,000 a year.) Although the Marcellus Field will not account for all the estimated 3.5 million new jobs in the natural gas shale area over the next couple of decades, it will account for a lot of them. In states like North Dakota, where the Bakken Field is producing a lot of fossil fuel, the unemployment is so slight that there is really a labor shortage in much of the state.

The economic bonanza to the Rust-Belt economies of those two swing states would be almost immediate, because investors will be lined up to start producing natural gas from this huge field. The impact upon the region is even more positive when one considers that the northeast uses a lot of energy for both residential heating and industry, and the proximity of a huge amount of cheap natural gas could suddenly make a lot of factories in the region competitive as well as reduce the heating costs of homes and offices.

Not only could that make ordinary Pennsylvanians and Ohioans interested in getting the Marcellus Field into production fast, but it could offer members of industrial unions in those states real hope of getting good-paying jobs in reopened factories. The cumulative impact would spread to the housing market, to retail businesses, and to almost everyone in the private sector in those two states.

But the benefit of an aggressive development of the field could help not only the private sector. Although state and local laws vary, lease payments and royalties of natural gas produced on state- or local government-owned lands could produce a big paycheck for state and local governments without any tax increases or, indeed, tax revenue increases at all. The revenue stream for state and local governments nationally is estimated to be a whopping $2.5 trillion over the next couple of decades.

Robust energy production in the United States strengthens the dollars, weakens the power of rogues like Chávez and Ahmadinejad, creates genuinely productive jobs, dramatically increases American private investment in the research and development work which holds the key to our economic future, and may actually give America some of the influence that it long had as an energy-exporting nation.

Is there a downside? The production of huge amounts of clean, cheap natural gas means that the cozy arrangement that Obama has had with Solyndra and other "green energy" campaign contributors and the resulting boondoggles that produce nothing but taxpayer liability will be even more indefensible than these sweetheart deals have already been.

The good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio have some important and, depending upon who wins the election, very happy news to hear. If Mitt Romney wins -- and Mitt should hammer this news each day until the election -- he has a guaranteed turnaround of their states' economies, with good jobs, cheap energy for consumers and businesses, and plenty of money for state and local governments. It is real news, and it is really good news -- but only if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election.

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Copyright ©2012 Bruce Walker

Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.