Energy Projects Will Lift Our Economy and Our Community

Published in the Trenton Times on September 15, 2010

Energy Projects Will Lift Our Economy and Our Community

Written by John Harmon

We all care about clean water and a safe environment for our children yet this concern does not have to stand in the way of a healthy economy. When it comes to energy production, all too often the media and the public make snap judgments on environmental issues, letting a lack of information lead to the vilification of perfectly safe practices that are supporting economic growth. A good case in point is the current debate over hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking” in the industry, is a technique that uses water pressure to extract oil and natural gas from rock formations that are impervious to conventional drilling methods. Fracking has a long track record of success and has proven itself to be a safe, effective way to utilize domestic energy reserves that would otherwise go untapped.

Fracking is important because meeting the energy demands of businesses and consumers with clean burning fuels such as natural gas is incredibly valuable to our economy. Best of all we produce it right here at home. Not only does it stabilize prices and make us less dependent on unreliable foreign oil-states and it directly supports millions of jobs. Economists estimate that U.S. oil and natural gas production provides employment opportunities for nine million Americans.

The EPA has carefully studied fracking, determining in 2004 that it does not pose a threat to underground drinking water supplies, an allegation that has been thrown around by some environmental activists. The water and other fluids used in fracking are injected deep into shale formations and contained by thousands of feet of rock far below drinking water tables.

Since the late 1940s, fracking has been used in over 1 million U.S. wells to produce more than 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. We’ll need even more energy in the future and more fracking; studies have indicated that 80 percent of the gas wells drilled in the next decade will require fracking.

Fracking is a common part of our countries energy landscape. Fracking has been used in the Marcellus Shale regions for decades and has the potential to provide natural gas for many years to come.

This would supply New Jersey businesses and households with plentiful amounts of clean burning energy, support employment opportunities and buoy the regions struggling economy.

New Jersey and its neighbors could use the help. The Garden State has an unemployment rate at a staggering 9.5 percent while bordering Pennsylvania and New York aren’t doing much better, both above 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. It’s abundantly clear our economy is far from being out of the woods. What’s worse, minority communities are suffering even more than others.

In the Northern New Jersey/New York metropolitan area in 2009, African Americans were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. Last spring, when the nationwide overall unemployment rate was just around 10 percent, 15 percent of African Americans and 12 percent of Latinos were without a job.

We cannot allow unfounded fears about energy techniques like fracking to rob our region of new investments and the ability to regain financial stability. A booming energy industry in the Marcellus Shale region will bring not only ample supplies of affordable energy but also an injection of money into the region’s economy. Similar to any new business venture, fracking projects will need support from the local area. These large energy projects will need workers, supplies and support services from other local companies. The more energy projects here at home, the quicker our economy will recover and the sooner Americans will start working again.

John Harmon serves as the Regional Vice President of New York and New Jersey for the National Black Chamber of Commerce and is also the President of New Jersey African American Chamber of Commerce.