WELCOME to Saudi Appalachia, which is now the third largest producer of natural gas in the world, thanks to the use of hydraulic fracturing, which unleashes the fuel from the Marcellus shale formation.
The last five years have seen a whirlwind of activity, which has had a drastic effect on the area, the economy and even foreign policy.
Production has hit 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day — two years earlier than expected.
Appalachia now produces twice as much natural gas as Iran does. The impact is tremendous:
- Wholesale natural gas prices are one-quarter here what they are in Japan, giving businesses in the state a competitive advantage.
- Natural gas severance tax collections in West Virginia tripled in the last year alone.
- Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States are the lowest since 1994 thanks in part to natural gas replacing coal.
Energy independence has a way of normalizing relations with an ally, one that goes back 80 years to the formation of Saudi Arabia as a nation. The United States should not be beholden to anyone.
Environmentalists raised concerns but the complaints about fracking itself have been unfounded.
Still, drillers need to respect property owners, work with local governments to restore roads and recycle the water used to frack as much as possible.
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy and Congress launched the Appalachian Regional Commission to help lift the area out of poverty.
The corridor highways built by the commission bring the rigs that are helping accomplish that goal. The state should continue to encourage this.