Sunday, May 15, 2011

Political Science 101: Serve Those Who Finance Your Campaign...

     ...and ignore those who elected you to office.
     The Marcellus Shale was deposited almost 400M years ago in an area running from Ohio through West Virginia, western Maryland, western and northern Pennsylvania, and into southern New York state. Far beneath the surface of the sea which covered the area, organic material trapped in the shale formed into pools of oil. Some liquid petroleum can still be found in the western area; further east the oil was converted to natural gas during still deeper burial some 240M years ago.
     Because of the continuously increasing cost of fuel, recovery of natural gas from shale has become economically feasible. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that the Marcellus contains 252 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, and that volume could increase as more advanced technology becomes available. The Marcellus is the second largest source of natural gas in the world; some estimates place the total value of recoverable gas at one trillion dollars.
     With the exception of Pennsylvania, all Marcellus states have passed various restrictions on drilling until environmental problems are investigated. For example, Maryland and New York have gone so far as to call a halt to drilling pending assessment of the environmental consequences.
     And consequences there are: as a result of the chemicals which are pumped into the shale in order to release the gas, wastewater treatment plants are encountering chemicals they are not equipped to handle. At the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, the PA Department of Environmental Protection has asked drillers to voluntarily stop taking wastewater to Pennsylvania treatment plants by May 19. This is tantamount to asking the Philadelphia Eagles to please stop playing so rough.
     A March, 2011 survey conducted by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, done in conjunction with several Pennsylvania newspapers and TV stations, shows a majority of adult Pennsylvania residents favor an extraction tax on the state's rapidly growing natural-gas industry - a step vehemently opposed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Every other state in the U. S. in which drillers operate has imposed such a tax.
     Gov. Corbett has stated that if we impose such a tax, the drillers will leave the state. The question is: where will they go? They will leave an area with billions of dollars in potential revenue and go – where? especially in a state where the DEP spends as little as 35 minutes reviewing requests for permits before dragging out the rubber stamp. According to the AP, “Of the 7,019 applications that DEP has processed since 2005, only 31 have been rejected — less than one-half of one percent.“
     Which brings me to the heart of the matter: In view of a projected state budget deficit of 4B dollars, why does Gov. Corbett refuse to even consider what a majority of adults in Pennsylvania would like to see – an extraction tax on natural gas?
     Let's follow the money. Of all the industries donating funds to Corbett and Cawley's (lieutenant governor) election campaigns, the oil and gas interests led the way with $1,094,395, over $283,000 ahead of the second place insurance industry.
     Here are the top five individual contributors from the natural-gas industry:

Name OccupationEmployerContrib.
K. PegulaHousewife, Exec. (1) East Resources, Inc. 180,000
T. Pegula Executive, Ret'd. East Resources, Inc. 100,000
C. Toretti Owner (2) S.W. Jack Drilling 92,513
T. Rees-Jones Pres., CEO (3) Chief Oil & Gas 50,000
R. Long BusinessmanEast Resources, Inc. 28,000

The moral of the story is: A few hundred thousand dollars will get you the best government money can buy.
(1) East Resources has leaseholds in excess of 650,000 acres in key southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania areas of the Marcellus. East has drilling rights in roughly 1M acres of the entire Marcellus. The company was purchased by Royal Dutch Shell in 2010.
(2) S. W. Jack Drilling Provides drilling services in Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
(3) Chief oil and gas is engaged in the exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas reserves in several fields in the Appalachian Basin, northern Texas, and Central Utah. As of November, 2009, Chief's holdings were reported to be in excess of 650,000 acres in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
     In 1948 Bertrand Russell, who had previously rejected the notion of causality, suggested that under certain conditions the idea had some usefulness as a shorthand mechanism, primarily in scientific inductive reasoning. Briefly, his theory suggested that “a persistence of something, a person, a table, a photon, or what not” may be considered as a string of events having a causal connection with each other. Under Russell’s definition, a chair at time t is connected to a chair at time t-1 and also at t+1. As he put it, “Given a certain event at a certain time, then at any slightly earlier or slightly later time there is, at some neighbouring place, a closely similar event.” The chair at time t is caused by the earlier chair (at t-1), and is the cause of the later chair (at t+1).
     Causality – The Spirit Runs Through It.

“The Spirit Runs Through It” and “There Are Only Seven Jokes” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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