Could people without college degrees or government jobs find work in the Rustbelt again? If greens have their way, no. A recently-leaked report from New York state’s Health Department indicated that, within the state’s regulatory rubric, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) would pose no serious health risks. Unless the governor has some serious reason to believe that the report is inaccurate, this means that he has been caving to green pressure for a year and denying work to upstate New Yorkers who badly need it.
Exactly how bad are things? Well, if the Department of Labor’s statistics are at all to be trusted, in New York it is quite an exciting time to be an employer. You have more than 8% of the population to choose from. This is especially bad in hollowed-out manufacturing centers like Buffalo and Binghamton. And all this while New Yorkers are standing on buried treasure.
Drilling for natural gas in almost non-existent in New York, while across the southern border in Pennsylvania, drilling in the Marcellus Shale has expanded from just under 30 wells to over 2000. Farmers and landowners in the region can earn thousands of dollars per acre for drilling rights before a well even breaks ground.
But landowners and energy companies wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from a New York natural gas boom. Working people — welders, drillers, mechanics and chemists — would all be able to find decent work in the industry as well.
Anti-fracking activists often claim that “green” jobs are the future of the working-class. Quite frankly, this is ridiculous. In a struggling economy, businesses and homeowners aren’t going to place a high premium on insulating their walls a little better when they are already warm enough, and green manufacturing tends to benefit people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees significantly more than people with GEDs. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the employment page of this stimulus beneficiary.
This isn’t to say that New York politicians are opposed to creating more brown-collared energy jobs. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been a formidable advocate. It is just that the oil drilling jobs he advocates would be located in Saudi Arabia. This is an odd position for someone who considers himself a friend of the environment to hold. Natural gas burns cleaner than either petroleum oil or coal.
Democrats won big in New York in the November election, but the one faction of the party that lost hands-down were the anti-fracking extremists. The people spoke, but Albany is still slow to listen. This is because, for too long, New York’s political class has been guided by a singular ideology which says, when it comes to job creation, “Not in my backyard.”
This article was originally published in Rochester’s Smugtown Beacon.