PITTSBURGH — Attendees of the first full day of the annual Shale Insight conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center found themselves treated to a gas and oil industry pep rally Wednesday, coupled with predictions of who will be elected the next president of the United States.
“Without the energy boom in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, there would not be an economic boom,” said Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. “This is an incredible energy economy right now.”
The Marcellus Shale Coalition-backed conference, now in its fourth year, brings together nearly 2,000 national — and international — industry executives, policymakers and technical experts under one roof to discuss the latest developments and opportunities brought about by shale. This is the first time the event is being held in Pittsburgh. It had previously been held in Philadelphia.
The Marcellus shale natural gas pocket is largely located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and parts of New York. It covers about 65,000 square miles and has been in the news for several years, both for its economic benefits and from groups opposed to the project because wells have to drill down through water tables to extract the gas. Opponents fear underground water supplies will become contaminated from the drilling.
Moore, who previously wrote on the economy and public policy for the Wall Street Journal, said he is bullish on the economy, saying that Pennsylvania utility rates are half what they were in 2008, during the economic recession and prior to Barack Obama being elected to his first term.
“Without the energy boom, Barack Obama would not have been re-elected,” said Moore, who chided Obama for his stance on fossil fuels and for investing more than $100 billion in renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power in the hope that the rest of the world would follow his lead.
“And after spending $100 billion on renewable energy, only 2.8 percent of our energy comes from wind and solar power,” Moore said.
“Germany, France and Spain bought into green energy,” Moore said. “Germany is now sprinting away from green energy and is trying to get back into fossil fuels. … Being against fracking is like being against a cure for cancer.”
Dana Perino, who was White House press secretary for President George W. Bush from 2007 through 2009, offered some insight into the upcoming midterm elections and who might be running for the nation’s top office in 2016.
She said while there are hundreds of races in the U.S. House of Representatives, only a handful are competitive. Races in the U.S. Senate, though, are another story.
“Most pundits are saying that the Republicans will take the majority,” said Perino, who is now a political commentator and co-host of the Fox News Channel’s “The Five,” a talk show that features a rotating panel who discuss political issues and pop culture.
“The Republicans will come in because Obamacare is so unpopular,” said Perino, who predicted Obama will eventually sign the Keystone Pipeline bill because of pressure from the GOP.
The Keystone Pipeline is an oil system in Canada and the United States that would run from Alberta, in western Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. Three phases of the pipeline are already in operation carrying synthetic crude oil and bitumen (tar sand) from Canada, as well as light crude oil from Montana and North Dakota.
The project has been delayed because environmentalists claim it would affect the nation’s climate. In particular, pipeline opponents say the route would run through the Sandhills area of Nebraska, which lies on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, where much of the Midwest gets its water, according to a recent report by National Public Radio.
“I think he will sign it within 100 days,” Perino said. “There is a movement toward energy security.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the likely Democratic nominee to succeed Obama, Perino said. There are no strong Republican candidates, though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could be thinking about making a run, she said.
“Jeb Bush would make a good president, but I am not sure he will run,” she said. “Forty-one (George H.W. Bush) is for it; 43 (George W. Bush) is trying to give his brother room.”
The shale conference continues Thursday. Bill Richardson, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, will talk about challenges for the domestic energy supply.
Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is schedule to discuss cyber terrorism against the energy infrastructure.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who is running for re-election, is also scheduled to speak.