I recently asked Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about his Democrat challenger’s thoughts on the energy industry. Tom Wolf believes that Pennsylvania’s natural gas producers aren’t paying their fair share — a bizarre assertion. Wolf ought to drop to his knees thanking the Almighty for this industry. The vast majority of our job growth is fueled by shale gas. Instead, leftists like Tom Wolf view energy producers with envy, rubbing their hands not in gratitude but with dreams of gloriously redistributing those pernicious profits.
Of course, Wolf couches the revenue grab as an act of benevolence — compassionately redirecting dirty money to better purposes: “our children” and their education. To liberals, there’s never enough spent on education. An annual tenfold increase in education from here to eternity would be insufficient. To the contrary, the energy industry could never meet liberals’ satisfaction. An annual tenfold increase in jobs would still make these profiteers inherently evil.
That brings me back to my question for Gov. Corbett. He responded by underscoring what energy producers have done for Pennsylvania. He gave a very detailed answer, with an abundance of facts. If gas producers ever are put in the dock by liberal inquisitors, they should hire Corbett as lead counsel.
Corbett is vigorously defending the industry against his opponent. Yet, his stirring defense prompted this thought: Why is the energy industry so silent?
The question is all the more perplexing given that the industry is so proactive. Look at the excellent public relations by Range Resources. Or consider the clever billboard ads on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, done by the group Big Green Radicals. One has a picture of the weird Lady Gaga and asks, “Would you take energy advice from a woman wearing a meat dress?” My favorite is a billboard with Yoko Ono: “Would you take energy advice from the woman who broke up The Beatles?”
Nope. And I wouldn’t take it from Tom Wolf either.
So, again, why the silence from gas producers? Maybe they see Wolf as way ahead in the polls and fear antagonizing him. Why invoke Wolf’s wrath if his election seems a fait accompli?
One observer told me that the industry’s modus operandi is “to keep its head low politically.” He points to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, from which he has seen no ads countering Wolf’s plans. “This is probably because they are a 501(c)3,” he explains. “And my guess is that they don’t have a (c)4 and don’t want one because their big sponsors are Marcellus producers who don’t want to draw fire.”
That’s probably correct. A (c)4 status permits political involvement, which many energy producers calculate as unwise.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s website has lots of highlights but nothing regarding threats. When I searched “Tom Wolf,” I found only Tom Corbett, Tom Ridge and Ben Wolfgang. Nothing on the Wolf at the door.
The ads I most often see are Tom Wolf merrily cruising in his Jeep or portraying a fanged Tom Corbett standing outside Pennsylvania schools with a torch and can of gasoline.
One person in the industry told me: “You know, Tom Wolf became rich from cabinet making, and good for him; it’s the American way. [And yet,] the timber industry doesn’t pay a severance tax in Pennsylvania either, [even though] every other state has one.” He says, “We pay a host of other taxes and fees that are not levied in any other states. We pay for road repairs! That’s billions of dollars.”
He notes that in states with a severance tax, producers might respond: “Yes, we damaged the roads, but we pay a severance tax, so you fix it.” As it stands, Tom Wolf is fixin’ to make Pennsylvania’s gas producers pay. The only thing in his way is Tom Corbett and Tom Corbett alone. And if you’ve seen the polls, that’s not promising news for the state’s leading industry.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.”