Albany needs only to look west to the frigid plains of North Dakota for practical advice on whether to allow exploitation of the abundant natural gas in the shale that sits thousands of feet below the farm fields of New Yorks Southern Tier all the way north into Oswego County.
Below the plains of North Dakota is the Bakken Shale. The energy industry has used hydraulic fracturing to extract nearly a million barrels of oil a day from the earth. The private investment in North Dakota to successfully produce this gusher of oil has resulted in dramatic increases in population driven by the plethora of high-paying jobs in the oil fields. The state reports that the average oil field worker earns $91,400 a year, double the average wage in the state. Three of the top 10 fastest-growing small cities in the United States are in North Dakota.
North Dakotas climate is harsher than New Yorks. It is a long way to go to find work, but the state expects 110,000 people to migrate there in the next decades because of the jobs. The state is struggling making the investments in roads, housing, sewer services, electric supply. At the same time, it is accumulating 30 percent of its gas and oil tax revenues in a fund that will have $3 billion to $4 billion by 2017.
Opportunity follows when exploration is permitted. New York states impoverished rural areas would benefit dramatically if Albany allowed hydraulic fracturing to free the natural gas trapped far beneath Earths surface. That gas could generate electricity, heat homes and fuel new industries.
There are plenty of New Yorkers who would welcome staying home with a $90,000-a-year job. All that stands between them and a large paycheck are state regulations. Albanys top New Years resolution should be to allow the extraction of natural gas from the depths of the earth within its borders.