Listening to the state Senate debate on natural gas development was agonizing. Opponents of energy development tried every way they could to delay any progress.
Opponents of development sometimes try to obscure the issues by noting that until we drill, we don’t know for sure how much natural gas there is under our feet in North Carolina.
It’s technically true that we don’t know for sure. But by all indications there is a lot.
Yesterday the state Energy Policy Council had a meeting reviewing energy potential in the state.
State experts touched on the U.S. Geological Survey analysis of the Deep River Basin, a potential energy field within North Carolina, mostly in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties. The USGS found there is a 95 percent chance there is at least 779 billion cubic feet of natural gas in that basin.
That’s just one area. There are others, on the land and off the shore.
As senators noted, North Carolina is not leaping into the dark. Dozens of other states are already developing shale sites, and reaping thousands of jobs and millions in revenues.
After my last vacation I wrote about how fracking was bringing jobs and money to Pennsylvania, where I lived for a long time.
The Fayetteville Observer sent one of their writers up to Pennsylvania to report on what is happening. Basically, he found what I found, and what can be verified by a quick survey of the news: The development of shale energy has brought a boom to western Pennsylvania, which has been struggling economically for decades. (If you doubt me, keep an eye out for how many Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates bumper stickers and logos you’ll see here in NC.)
First, shale development means jobs for people who are willing to put on hard hats and work boots and go and get their hands dirty. These are the people who have been hit hardest by the economic trends of recent years. It also means good jobs for geologists and other professionals. Plus, the royalties go landowners and local governments. There are plenty of people who have been struggling to keep family farms going. There are also cities and counties outside the big cities that have struggled to pay for services for their citizens.
Yes, there are genuine issues with energy exploration. Some of those problems a lot of North Carolinians would like to have: crowded streets, new taxpayers, well-paid workers looking for a place to spend their paychecks, and moving into a higher tax bracket.
As for others, North Carolina has been dithering and fretting about this issue for years. Other states have gone ahead. We can learn from their mistakes, for which we can thank them.
But there are billions of dollars right under our feet. It’s time to go get them.