Natural Gas Exports Assailed As Economic And Environmental Threat

Shale gas supply “wildly overstated”

But Rogers, who previously worked as an investment banker, argued that “recoverable shale gas supply has been wildly overstated. You only have to look at the downgrades issued by the U.S. Geological Survey, which has cut the estimate of Marcellus reserves and nearly all the other shale plays by 85 percent below the original claims.”

Nevertheless, when fracking fields start running dry, gas companies with export contracts would still have to deliver the gas they promised or face penalties under international trade agreements administered by the World Trade Organization, Rogers noted.

To avoid those penalties, the companies would have to keep developing more and more fields in more and more towns, where “they always promise jobs and economic growth — which is never sustained beyond the first couple of years,” Rogers said.

In fact, after crunching the Labor Department’s 2003-2010 income statistics, Rogers determined that the median household income in the four counties considered to be the “core” of the Barnett, Texas, shale activity increased by an average of 14 percent, while the rest of the state enjoyed a 21 percent increase.

At the same time, unemployment in those counties averaged 2 percent, compared to the 1.5 percent average for the state. “We see the same sort of thing in all the other fracking areas,” Rogers said. “In Susquehanna County, which is one of the most-heavily fracked areas of Pennsylvania, average income decreased from 2008 through 2010 and the unemployment rate went up.”

Rogers added that the income drops indicate “that whatever money the companies are bringing in must be leaving the local communities.” She also pointed out that some companies’ employment projections include such jobs as “strippers and prostitutes,” and that “they’re using unrealistic multipliers.”

A “credible economist,” she noted, “might use a multiplier of 1.5” to predict the number of jobs that would be created from a given investment. “ButFood and Water Watch looked at this, and they found that the companies were paying economists to come up with rosier outlooks by using much larger multipliers than 1.5,” Rogers said.

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America, an industry group, is also concerned about the impacts of LNG exports on U.S. employment, overall. In its July 21 comments on the DOE’s procedural proposal, the Washington-based group warned that $100 billion worth of recent, industrial projects might not have been funded if energy costs, especially electricity produced with gas, had been rising significantly — as they probably would, the group warned, if a huge volume of U.S. gas supply was permanently diverted to exports.

 

Could America become a “resource colony?”

After retiring from investment banking, Rogers left London to start an artisanal cheese company on a Fort Worth property which was previously owned by her grandfather. She has since sold the dairy operation to focus on her think tank, which evolved after some less-than-welcome neighbors — “high-impact fracking operations,” as she describes them — were built “about 600 feet from my front door.”

For her, the remnants of that operation are a daily reminder of what might be the most profound threat posed by LNG exports: turning the U.S. into “a resource colony for the rest of the world.”

More immediately, said Ted Gleichman — who heads the Oregon Sierra Club’s fight against two $7 billion LNG export terminals planned for the Oregon coast — there are steps that anti-fracking activists can take to help prevent energy companies from exploiting U.S. gas for the benefit of energy exporters.

“LNG exports and fracking are two sides of the same coin, fused by money,” Gleichman told MintPress. “For anti-fracking activists to protect their communities, they need to do two things. First, they need to make sure that new and existing electricity needs in their states are met with renewables and conservation measures — not with conversions of coal-fired plants into gas-fired plants. Second, they need to rally against LNG exports and the 20-year overseas contracts to compel them.”

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