Rep. Fred Keller
In his opinion piece about the energy industry published in the Sun Gazette on Feb. 6, our U.S. Rep. Fred Keller built his case on partisanship, exaggerations, and lies, in my view. He wrote: “Pennsylvania’s statewide energy sector now sustains more than 300,000 jobs, pays more than $23 billion in wages, contributes $45 billion to the commonwealth’s economy, and saves the average household $1,100 every year in energy costs.” This is directly from a study that was commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition. It was heavily criticized when it came out and now can’t be found on the Coalition’s website.
Statistics for the last quarter of 2000 from Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry paint quite another picture. Gas and oil drilling jobs are reported under the category Logging and Mining, the extraction industries. This has always been the smallest economic category in the state, tiny in comparison to others. Before the gas industry came to Pennsylvania there were about 18,000 jobs in logging and mining. Last December stats showed a gain of a little over 5,000 prior to fracking.
It is difficult to believe that 5,000 or even 10,000 direct jobs could “sustain more than 300,000 jobs.” The actual number of jobs in the gas industry are little more than a rounding error in the state’s 5.6 million workforce.
Rep. Keller has joined a long line of shills that I believe the petroleum industry has recruited to obscure the basic truth that they have a very low need for workers. They promise jobs they can’t supply and have had academics and people in power to wildly inflate those estimates.
When the gas drilling industry came to our region they armored themselves with hype. You might remember these, “the goose that lays the golden egg, a game changer, a generational employment opportunity.” Using these they were able to stave off a severance tax, replacing it with a far less costly impact fee.
Local developers and investors became light-headed with the prospect of thousands of gas drillers flooding into the area. They used their own money and credit to build hotel space and lodgings for what turned out to be a phantom workforce. Much of that living space now sits unoccupied. That private money could have been used on projects that would have benefited the local economy.
Keller wrote: “Energy companies have been outstanding partners in our communities and have helped make great strides in improving rural health care, schools, infrastructure, and downstream job opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and other industries.”
How did Williamsport’s economic zone fair with gas drilling? Again, quoting Labor and Industry, “in the last 10 years Williamsport has lost about 28 percent of it goods producing jobs and 7 percent of service jobs.” Williamsport has lost 5,900 jobs or 11.1 percent of its workforce. As for the extraction industries, “the largest percentage change (in the last five years) was a drop of 21.7 percent in mining and logging.”
Williamsport is beset with problems including a depressed economy, a high rate of poverty, aging housing stock and crumbling infrastructure. None of this is helped by Fred Keller pandering to what appears to be a dying industry.
I have a request for my Republican friends. Local politics assures that the 12th District Representative will be a Republican seat so it is your responsibility to pick that person. It is hard to believe that Fred Keller is the best you can do.
Submitted via Virtual Newsroom