Knowledge is Power

By: Peter M. Duncan

In the northeastern part of the United States, in Zanesville, Ohio, Marine reservist Cory May is ecstatic. In a county with an 11% unemployment rate, May completed a two-week, 80-hour shale gas exploration certification course at his local community college, Zane State. When he graduated, he'd interviewed for three jobs and taken a position cementing wells for Halliburton that will pay $60,000 to $70,000 a year.

Zane State is among dozens of public colleges and universities that are scrambling to add new staff, academic majors or job-training courses in fields related to harvesting the vast natural gas resources that run beneath Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.

Travis Windle, a Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesperson said, "There's really been a sea change in these opportunities, a cornucopia of community colleges and local workforce training programs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, even the southern tier of New York. As natural gas continues to expand, so do the needs for a local workforce with these skills that are going to be in need for the next 50 years, or even more."

A recent study by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association predicted that extracting natural gas from the Utica Shale, which deeply underlies the Marcellus, would create or support more than 200,000 Ohio jobs over the next four years.

While this trend is a positive for the U.S. economy and employment, European countries have not been as quick to join. Most recently, France's largest natural gas developer, GDF Suez has announced that they will continue to uphold their ban on fracing.  In addition to France, other promising sites for shale gas development have been uncovered in Germany, Poland and Ireland.

In countries that are suffering from the same dismal employment crisis as the U.S. it seems foolish to disregard this opportunity for so much growth. Perhaps Europeans might also look to educational programs such as the one May is so fortunate to have found as the answer to overcoming their fracing fears.