Editorial: Gas Boom, How Many Jobs?

Charleston Gazette - Last winter, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy predicted that the snowballing Marcellus Shale gas boom and spinoff industries will create 30,000 high-paying West Virginia jobs by 2020 and 58,000 by 2035 -- vastly outstripping the fading coal industry. Read

Projections in a three-part study titled "America's New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil and Gas Revolution" said horizontal drilling and "fracking" have opened an era in which "shale will create millions of jobs and trillions in investments over the coming decades."

A section on West Virginia said:

"The mining sector has been hit hard by a downturn in coal production. ... Fortunately, the state sits on promising gas reserves, primarily the Marcellus Shale formation. ... Unconventional, oil and gas directly and indirectly supported nearly 12,000 jobs in the state in 2012. The state's unconventional gas-related employment is expected to increase to 30,000 jobs by 2020 and to 58,000 by 2035. These jobs would employ 6.8 percent of the state labor force by 2035."

The report says the drilling boom added $1.6 billion to West Virginia's economy in 2012 and "we forecast that this contribution will grow to $9.3 billion by 2035." That's almost a sixfold increase.

Now, however, a contradictory study by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative says early estimates have been far too rosy. Ted Boettner of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy said gasfield work so far is "less than 1 percent of the state employment mix."

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