Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Television viewers in Belgium will learn about Pennsylvania’s unconventional natural gas development from Corey Young, director of the Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management.
Young was recently interviewed by a crew from VRT NWS, the largest television network in the European country of 11 million, comparable to the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S. The crew, led by journalist Thomas De Graeve, is traveling to “battleground” states in the upcoming presidential election to explore topics that have been central to the race.
The issue of fracking, or using hydraulic fracturing to release gas from shale formations deep underground in the Marcellus region of Pennsylvania, has been raised by both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The segment will air on a VRT current affairs program. Pennsylvania is second to only Texas in the amount of natural gas produced in the U.S.
Young, who also directs the CEPM’s Shale Gas Knowledge Hub initiative, explained the history of hydraulic fracturing and how the technology allowed development of the Marcellus to begin in the state around 2008. “It absolutely has transformed the region,” Young said.
He talked about the benefits the industry has brought to the region in terms of jobs, income and Act 13 impact fee revenue for communities. He also spoke about the negative impacts, including traffic, road damage and environmental and health harms.
The boom and bust nature of the industry also was discussed, along with the current economic environment that has seen gas development drop as drillers deal with the pandemic, low gas prices, and a move to other sources of energy.
Young explained how the abundant gas in Appalachia led Shell to build a petrochemical cracker plant in Beaver County, which will turn liquid gas products like ethane into the building blocks for plastics products. “The hope is it will transform into more manufacturing jobs” in this area for plastics and other related products, he said.
President Trump has been very outspoken about his support for fossil fuels and the natural gas industry. Biden’s message has been unclear regarding natural gas, but he has recently said he would ban fracking on federal lands and end subsidies for the oil industry, while also acknowledging that natural gas has a place in the energy landscape as the country transitions to carbon-neutral forms of energy.
While there are differing opinions on the outlook for the Appalachian natural gas industry, Young believes that it will continue to be a part of the energy landscape, although production may not continue to rise as it had before COVID-19. “I don’t think fracking will go away soon in Pennsylvania,” he said.