Industry study presents shale gas as economic ‘bright spot’

A new study by economic forecaster IHS Global Insight asserts shale gas is ushering in an economic boom, creating 600,000 jobs around the country. The study was funded by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, an industry trade group.

The numbers are dramatic, according to IHS vice president, John Larson. By 2035, the company’s study estimates, the industry could support more than a 1.5 million jobs and provide up to 60 percent of the gas produced in the United States.

“This is … without a doubt one of the bright spots within a very, very laborious recovery period,” he said Tuesday.

The gas industry has tried to highlight its contribution to the American economy with television spots and other outreach efforts in light of controversy over the safety of fracking. That’s the high-pressure extraction process used to force gas out from deep underground.

Still, Larson says, “It’s pretty remarkable, given the economic environment, to see an industry performing like this.”

He said growing demand for natural gas comes primarily from electric utilities. Moving away from coal and other “dirty” fuels, power producers have been replacing aging plants with new gas-powered facilities.

Warring studies in Pennsylvania have produced wildly different accounts of the number of jobs created by Marcellus Shale drilling. And just what the “correct” economic impact numbers are has become a part of the fight over drilling.

But the IHS study makes the case that consumers have benefited nationally from lower prices for natural gas. The study estimates savings of $900 a person next year in lower electric bills and cheaper consumer goods.

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