February 10, 2012

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Brown vs. Green In The Rust-Belt Battleground.

Green complaints about fracking reached a fever pitch over the past year, but Pennsylvania apparently wasn’t listening to them. The Wall Street Journal reports that the state legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that will make state laws more favorable to fracking, culminating a debate that has been raging ever since massive quantities of shale gas were discovered in the state in 2008.

The vote was close, and fell roughly along party lines. Republicans supported the bill because it promises cheaper energy and job creation in an economically depressed state; Democrats opposed it because of the potential for environmental damage and safety hazards.

Don’t doubt for a minute that legislators in other states in the region—many of which may also have shale gas deposits—are reading the tea leaves in this bill’s passage. The industrial states of the Rust Belt desperately need jobs, and judging by the rapid recovery of energy-rich states like North Dakota and Texas, fracking is beginning to look like their best bet for getting them. The historically warm relationship between the greens and local Democrats could grow downright chilly.

Ironically, if the Greens wanted to reduce domestic petroleum extraction, the best way to do it would be to get the Keystone Pipeline approved and bring in competition from Canada to drive prices down . . . .

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