Drilling for facts

Marcellus hagiography is getting way out of hand. Here is an oped in New York that quotes a US Congressperson from Pennsylvania:

“Two of my counties have a zero percent unemployment. This has been very positive.”

Zero percent unemployment?!  I don’t see it.  I don’t care that someone actually out there said it… even if it was a congressperson. The news criteria of a quote makes a source does not trump simple verifiable factuality. There are no counties in Pennsylvania with zero unemployment rates. Nor any that close. By historical standards, most all PA counties have some pretty high unemployment rates these days.  Yet someone thinks it’s zero in more than one whole county.

So this is what gets me. So let’s all agree the development of shale gas is a big economic deal. Does that mean it is responsible for everything. Here is another example. There was a pro-shale gas oped in Cleveland last week. See: Buckeye Oil Billions Will Unleash an Ohio Manufacturing Tech Boom

Again, it is a positive economic story for sure.  Yet why does that piece not stick to the facts in abundance that could help make his case?   In it is a quote about how Marcellus Shale development has impacted Pittsburgh:

“(Marcellus Shale) has already fueled a downtown construction boom in Pittsburgh.”

Really?  Why do people say these things? Let’s go through it. In Pittsburgh the biggest Downtown construction of late has clearly been the new PNC Tower. The decision or at least the idea to build the tower clearly dates back to late 2005 at least and its construction decision appears to have been influenced by a sizable TIF offered by city/school district and county. Hold that TIF thought for a moment.

So if that was really a Marcellus Shale influenced decision back then, someone was really really prescient down there at PNC and on the 5th Floor.

If that construction is not what the author thinks is shale gas related, then it must be the score of highly subsidized (in one form or another) Downtown condominium developments that have been completed in recent years. Most of those date back to decisions in the mid to early 00’s or earlier.   The connection to Marcellus Shale in them is what exactly?

Let’s see.. there were the two big bank operations centers built in town? Not really recent enough to be considered related to shale gas unless someone was really really looking into the future. Would have required help from the custom Delorean.

I know, he was thinking of almost completed tunnel construction and related. The $524 million in construction North Shore Connector and Downtown T station reconstruction is really a stealth way to get around the ban on drilling for shale gas in the City of Pittsburgh. Of course the decision to build the NSC dates back to decisions decades ago. Brilliant.

The Casino.. that must be it. The Casino built on the same spot as the once planned Riverboat Casino here in town and resulting directly from a state licensing process that all but required it to be built in the city.   Don Barden was talking Marcellus Shale all the time.  Again, there must be frac(k?)ing equipment buried under the poker tables.

The entirely public Grant Street Transportation Center was built not all that long ago? That would be a hard argument to connect to shale gas. Those workers coming in from Oklahoma and Texas were not getting here by Greyhound as best I can tell.

What am I missing? The New African American Center and it’s wing devoted to minorities working on Developing shale gas in the Pennsylvania T (the other T that is).

Look.. I don’t believe the guy made it up all by himself. The question is what did someone tell the author that lead him to believe Marcellus shale was causing, or did cause the boom in Downtown development?  Sure seems that if you go through all of the above, the biggest factor in any recent boom in Downtown construction has been a lot of public money and subsidies or related public incentives. Funny that isn’t mentioned, but there is a story for someone to dig into. If there is a Marcellus side story in what has happened Downtown over the last decade, it is a very very small small piece of the puzzle and pales in comparison to a lot of public investment…

Oh wait.. I forgot the Consol Arena.  Named at the time for more of a coal company ironically…  but built with public money through and through.  Point Park construction?  Duquesne construction?

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