Tag Archives: Marcellus Shale

Battleground Counties: Washington County, Pennsylvania

Washington County, Pennsylvania voted Democrat in Presidential races for nearly four decades until the 2008 election. Although Barack Obama carried the state by 11%, John McCain won Washington County county by 4%. This is a county that should be ripe for Obama with unemployment far below the national average at 6.7% while ranking third in the nation in job growth. But 40% of the job growth is due to the drilling in the Marcellus Shale and Washington County was built on this one issue: coal. Mining the Marcellus Shale has made this county a mini-Boom Town and energy policy is on the tips of everyone’s tongue in this area. Washington County sits in the very heart of this shale and the Obama Administrations policy towards coal has been antagonistic rather than accommodating due to environmental concerns. the original shift to Republican of this county was over energy policies Obama articulated towards coal and natural gas drilling during the last election. This antagonism over the last three years has made the Obama Administration increasingly unpopular among many residents although concerns over the environmental impact of such drilling still holds sway with many voters. Voters in this region are considered “rural voters” who Obama lost by 8% nationwide to John McCain in 2008. Today polling shows President Obama losing this segment by 20%. Meaningful out-performance of that nature can turn the 2008 11% win into a Battleground very quickly.

You can watch the entire video at the link:


Shale Revolution to Impact Battleground States

The technological advances in drilling coupled with the discovery of abundant shale in Appalachian Mountain states has the potential to change the financial fortunes of the entire region. The importance of shale to Battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado was outlined in great detail by the Financial Times (of London):

The shale revolution is spreading into eastern Ohio, bringing with it the possibility of reviving an economy that has faltered since industrial jobs left the region. But along with that promise, the shale wave is also bringing with it an increasingly intense brand of election-year politics. The Utica shale stretching from western Pennsylvania into Ohio is thought to be rich in oil and natural gas liquids, such as ethane, and is attracting billions of dollars in investment from US and foreign companies.

Blue collar Democrats more concerned with jobs over environment:

Paul Sracic, at Youngstown State University, says the intense focus on shale development has the potential to make energy a big issue in what is the country’s key swing state. “Blue-collar voters were never that sold on environmental issues, and if some Democrats come across as not keen on economic development, it could lose them support here in Ohio,” he said. Mitt Romney…[has] made Barack Obama’s alleged stifling of the energy industry a centrepiece of their campaigns this year.

[Romney alleges] Obama’s delay of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada is symbolic of his reticence to let the industry reach its full potential. [Pro-Romney] ads target Mr Obama for his refusal to approve the pipeline, restricting coal mining and using public funds to bankroll Solyndra, the solar energy company in California that later went bankrupt. Mr Romney has said he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he wins office and curb the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Non-Partisan groups are entering the fray:

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry lobby in Washington, is launching its own campaign this week to put energy at the centre of the election, although it does not directly advocate a vote for either candidate. Most of the 15 states where the API has been holding its meetings will be important battlegrounds for the presidential election, and in three of them – Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania – oil and gas are playing an increasingly important role in their economies.

Pennsylvania already seeing jobs:

Already, the boom in gas production in neighbouring Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale has created an estimated 2,000 jobs in the past 18 months in businesses providing services and equipment such as steel pipes. Vallourec of France has invested $650m to open a new steel mill in Youngstown.

The Battle for Pennsylvania

Despite our enthusiasm for the prospects in the Keystone state, not everyone shares our excitement including, it would appear, the Romney campaign. However, considering the demographic changes in the state, Obama’s well documented difficulties with Pennsylvania-like voters in his “uncontested” primaries and controversies over anti-business decisions like scuttling the Keystone Pipeline or killing coal plants, Pennsylvania remains a hot topic for political watchers. The Washington Post takes and in-depth look at voter sentiment in the coal country foothills of Western Pennsylvania:

This is coal country, even if there’s hardly any coal anymore. Hidden in the brush are the ruins of the beehive ovens that turned coal into coke and blackened the skies along the western slope of the Alleghenies.

The big play now is natural gas. Fayette County, which borders West Virginia about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh, is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale. Civic leaders hope that fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock to liberate the gas in its pores — can reverse the fortunes of this depressed region. This part of Pennsylvania is a political and economic battleground. It’s on the front line of America’s economic doldrums, and it is not incidentally a swing county in presidential elections.

John Kerry carried Fayette County in 2004, but four years later John McCain squeaked by Barack Obama. McCain’s margin, 25,669 to 25,509, represented barely enough voters to fill half a basketball court. No one would call Fayette a bellwether, but it represents one very vivid brick in the foundation of American political and economic life: the rural industrial region in a post-industrial age.

Party Affiliation Does Not Equal Party Voter:

This is an overwhemingly Democratic county by party affiliation, but it is politically conservative. It’s full of prototypical Reagan Democrats. That said, Obama has the lead in Pennsylvania polls and handily won the state four years ago. It’s not clear whether it’ll be as competitive as Ohio next door or some of the other swing states. But the president faces headwinds here. Fayette County’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. And the memory of coal and the dream of gas will not help Obama as he mines votes in this part of Pennsylvania.

The administration has touted its support for natural gas drilling, but many people here see Obama as unfriendly to fossil fuels. They cite his blocking of the proposed Keystone pipeline in the Great Plains. They talk about the administration’s tougher regulations on pollutants from coal-fired power plants. They’re wary of environmentalists who view fracking as a threat to the water supply.

Antipathy Toward Obama is Strong:

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