There’s a popular quote that reads “Politicians use statistics like drunks use lampposts — for support rather than illumination.”
The same could be said for a report by the Ohio River Valley Institute, which alleges oil and gas development has done little for 22 resource-rich counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia over the last decade.
The subject was covered in Lancaster Farming’s March 26 front-page article, “Fracking No Cure-All for Appalachia’s Economy.”
Based on questionable methodology, the findings contradict the empirical evidence we observe each and every day in the field, especially in agricultural communities across the state. The only thing the report really proves is that there remains a huge disconnect among individuals who simply don’t want to admit or don’t understand how much traditional resources power our everyday lives.
The reality is that abundant, affordable domestic fuels like natural gas and propane have been a boon to Pennsylvania farmers. Natural gas is a feedstock for fertilizers and other agricultural products. Propane, a budget-friendly fuel because of its local abundance, gives farmers the opportunity for improved production with lower input costs. For farmers, propane is just as important as the tractor.
Farmers can’t control the weather, but they do have a choice when it comes to the fuels they use. Propane heaters, for example, offer unmatched reliability because they continue to operate even during electric power outages, making access to this domestic fuel source critical for sustaining operations and keeping grocery store shelves stocked and neighbors across the commonwealth fed.
And let’s be honest, natural gas most certainly has helped to boost the Appalachian economy. Royalties from development have helped to keep some family farms from closing altogether or turning into huge housing developments. Some farms have pipelines crossing their property, earning additional revenue for being part of the delivery chain for these valuable resources.
Continued investments in pipelines and related energy infrastructure assets to safely and responsibly deliver natural gas and its byproducts to market is essential. Communities all along the line — not just those areas where fuels are extracted — benefit through enhanced access to cheap abundant, affordable, domestic energy resources.
Few know the value and importance of this resource better than our agricultural community. Pennsylvania farmers have a rich tradition as stewards of the land. If you want to know what the impact of oil and gas development has been in the counties where they live, all you need to do is ask them.