Study Quantifies Fracking's National Employment Potential

English: Drill rig , drilling a Marcellus Shal...

The boom in natural gas production in the U.S. may provide a very significant source of new jobs, according to a study released today by IHS Global Insight, as reported in this morning.

The study estimates nearly 900,000 jobs and an addition of $1,000 to household budgets by 2015. IHS, the company producing the study, is an energy research firm based in suburban Denver. Compared to other studies the firm has done, this particular study takes a more general look at the national economy, instead of focusing on areas of natural gas production.

Questions about calculations and environmental costs

While encouraging news, the studies have been criticized by lawmakers and environmentalists. According to the report in, lawmakers criticize the multipliers used to predict add-on jobs, while IHS defends the accounting techniques as conservative.

Environmentalists consider hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a major source of potential water contamination and water treatment issues, which have the potential to carry high environmental damages and cleanup costs.

EPA criticizes fracking regulations concerning air pollution

In Pennsylvania, where the gas industry has tapped into Marcellus Shale gas reserves, environmental controversy arose just today, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The EPA has criticized Pennsylvania lawmakers for air pollution rules regulating pollutants emitted by Marcellus Shale gas wells and developed sites located in close proximity to one another, according to the report. For more on this, see the original article here.

Tough challenges a job for chemical engineers

There appear to be no easy answers to these issues, but they may be a real boon for one group: chemical engineers. Given the considerable potential for energy and employment, it will be up to the gas industry and its chemical engineers to find environmentally responsible and effective means to extract these reserves. Meanwhile, chemical engineers will also play an even more significant role researching and developing alternative energy that will eventually shift the focus from carbon-based fuels to other more viable sources.

You can read the full article here and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article here.

Do fracking's potential gains justify potential environmental risks, given current techniques?


Robert S's picture

I think that this is an issue where the sides are quite polarized and the truth is in the middle. It can be done safely - properly drilled wells are cased (closed off from the surrounding soil) until they reach the depth of the target formation (very deep). Barring accident or poor construction this is pretty safe. I think the more substantial issue is the water usage and impact from these rigs and equipment toiling through the countryside. They are using a lot of water. But the local energy source is a real significant benefit. And unintended consequences - This is a little off topic, but I am a little annoyed by the brush off the environmental concerns are getting by the drilling companies. Their ad campaigns are really one-sided. The worst is the 3 students talking energy after class - the "energy", "economy", and "environment" students. "Energy" and "economy" say that we should drill for energy and jobs. "Environment" says but what about environment? The other two give her a look - "actually it's cleaner" with the same kind of attitude I used on my little sister when we I was 7. Cleaner than what? The impact can be minimized, but there is no way the scale of activity the industry is talking about is going to go by unnoticed.

Robert, thanks for your comment. We're in agreement. Theoretically fracking seems to be relatively safe, but the big question is whether it's really being done carefully and properly. Personally, I'd like to see more oversight of some kind, but what form that would take I don't know. I'm with you on the ads. I've not seen the one you mentioned, but millions go into those campaigns, and they are by definition one-sided; they merely five the impression of presenting all sides fairly. I don't know if you saw the article in the NY Times a few weeks ago, ( but I could literally walk to the drilling site they write about from my parents' house. Everyone in that area seems to have leased land to the gas companies (including my parents). What they say about the water situation is very troubling.

Robert S's picture

For now it seems that everyone (from industry to residents) is calling for proper oversight and is going to be a question of who writes and enforces. "This American Life" did an episode a while back where they went to one of the small towns at the center of the drilling craze and examined the process. The small town with no technical experience trying to write rules for the work, where the equipment will be stored, where the workers will live, etc. They painted the drilling companies as sneaky, but more in a PR way. As they were playing neighbor against neighbor than anything environmental. But I think it winds up being that no one trusts the drilling companies to write the rules, but few others have the knowledge or experience to write usable rules. Even academics get labels as 'industry sell-outs' or 'enviro-whacks' and can't help much.