Economic giants from around the world are watching the development of natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, and many of them are investing in it. So said Dr. Kent Moors, director of the Energy Policy Research Group at Duquesne University, at this week's Marcellus Shale Policy Conference in Pittsburgh.
?This is a fundamental game-changer,' Moors said. ?The economic benefits that we will reap are nothing short of staggering.' Estimates of the amount of extractable gas have risen from 25 trillion cubic feet a year ago to up to 75 trillion cubic feet today and there are now 73 companies operating in the Marcellus shale field. ?We're currently adding one to two operating companies a week looking to do business in the Marcellus,' said Moors.
Despite low natural gas prices, the Marcellus Shale's proximity to demand from the East Coast, coupled with continuing technical advancements, are keeping drillers busy. Operating costs continue to drop, Moors said, and gas from the Marcellus is expected to displace the more expensive gas that has met marketplace demands for decades, causing an economic ripple effect.
Dr. Moors warned that the state's failure to make good Marcellus shale drilling policy decisions will result in the costs being borne by local municipalities, including infrastructure impacts, especially destruction of roads, price inflation and impacts on agricultural land and water. The industry's demand for water could be higher than Pennsylvania is equipped to supply, Moors added. ?This has created some anxieties ? people are worried that we may have to choose between natural gas and water. Water may eventually become a bartering commodity.'
?Economically, it's a rising tide that won't raise all boats,' Dr. Moors said. ?It must be met head on, transparently and collaboratively. It can't be rammed down the throats of the locals.' He called on state and local governments to partner for strategic planning and policies that transcend municipal or county borders.