Study touting economic benefits of fracking skips over NYS

Dec 7, 2011

An industry-backed study released Tuesday says shale-gas extraction will continue to be a boon for the U.S. economy.

The American Natural Gas Alliance commissioned economic forecasting firm IHS Global Insight to conduct the study. The key findings:

  • By 2015, shale-gas extraction will account for 870,000 U.S. jobs and $118 billion in economic impact.
     

The numbers are big - but IHS Vice President John Larson says they could have been bigger.

"We did not consider any new well production activity for New York State in 2010 forward," said Larson. "You will not see any direct impacts in this study attributable to shale gas for the state of New York."

Hydrofracking in New York has been effectively banned as the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) continues to draft its drilling regulations.

Larson says the IHS study is the first of three that will seek to quantify the economic impact of so-called "unconventional" gas and oil development in North America.

Shale-gas extraction relies mainly on high-volume hydraulic fracturing - a process that frees up underground natural gas reserves by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure.

According to the IHS report, natural gas from shale makes up slightly over a third of the total U.S. output. The study found that number could increase to 60 percent by 2035.

IHS's Larson says shale-gas extraction has proven to be a "bright spot" in an otherwise flat U.S. economy.

"During this time of continued economic struggle, and a long laborious recovery, I think it's very striking to see how large a job creator this new shale gas industry is," Larson said Tuesday.

The sector currently supports more than 600,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, according to the industry-funded study.

Contentious numbers

Opponents of hydrofracking have long charged that the negative impacts of shale-gas extraction have not been fully studied - and that industry job numbers are often inflated.

Innovation Trail alum Emma Jacobs points out that different reports in recent years have produced widely divergent job creation numbers:

Warring studies in Pennsylvania have produced wildly different accounts of the number of jobs created by Marcellus Shale drilling. And just what the "correct" economic impact numbers are has become a part of the fight over drilling.

Bloomberg News reports that critics are already raising concerns about the IHS study's findings.

Food and Water Watch, which advocates a ban on fracking, said IHS didn’t provide a detailed methodology, making it impossible to validate the projections. The report also ignores potential job losses, Emily Wurth, the Washington-based group’s water policy director, said [Tuesday] in an e-mail.