WEST Virginia wants a cracker. In case you are unfamiliar, a cracker is the Tim Tebow of economics.
Tim Tebow has become a mythical figure for making fourth-quarter miracles happen on the football field. When Tim Tebow touches water, it turns into Gatorade.
A cracker promises economic miracles in downtrodden Appalachian states.
You know how there's a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow? A cracker takes the colors of the rainbows, breaks them down and turns them into streams of cash.
West Virginia is vying with Ohio and Pennsylvania for an industrial plant that will transform dusty Appalachian roads into streets of gold.
This state has seen booms before. But they're distant memories, long decaying.
Here's hoping our cracker dream doesn't let us down. Some might say we're putting all our eggs in one basket. Maybe it's OK. The cracker is a golden goose.
Our economic renaissance is possible because of pockets of natural gas in a section of earth called the Marcellus shale. Underground, the shale is black, fragmented rock. From space, this geological wonder is marked with a dollars sign.
Natural gas is formed by decomposition of ancient organic material under high pressure. It used to be hard to capture.
A few years ago, though, geologists discovered a way to plunge big sippy straws sideways into the ground to get the gas. Then water and a mixture of chemicals that you would not ever, under any circumstances, actually want in your Capri Sun juice bag are pumped into the rock under high pressure in a process known as hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing is what Tim Tebow does to opponents' facemasks.
Hydraulic fracturing also releases the gas from the shale.
From there, the natural gas goes to a natural gas processing plant called a "cracker."
Crackers break byproducts of drilling into parts and process them into useful products — usually elongated pieces of green paper adorned with U.S. presidents.
This is expressed through a chemical formula that looks like this: ethane = $$$.