According to Vidas' ICF study, which was published in 2012 by the American Clean Skies Foundation, Texas should see a gain of up to 236,000 jobs and Pennsylvania up to 145,000 jobs. Even states without significant shale gas resources are expected to gain tens of thousands of jobs due to supply chain businesses. Examples include Florida (59,000 jobs), New Jersey (36,000 jobs), and Missouri (21,000 jobs). Employment in Ohio was predicted to rise by between 42,900 and 84,000 jobs by 2017.
Other studies verify these predictions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts that the Marcellus Shale region will produce 30,000 West Virginia jobs by 2020 and 58,000 by 2035 -- vastly outstripping declines in the coal industry. Research firm IHS estimates that as many as 3.8 million new jobs will be created by 2025 in the U.S. that are either directly or indirectly related to the natural gas industry.
The extra work is expected to come in far-flung fields including gas and liquids pipelines, gas processing plants, petrochemical plants, steel manufacturing, sand mining, ammonia production, methanol production and liquefied natural gas export terminals.
Studies have shown that, in general, the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar of investment, than the fossil fuel-based energy sector. Combined heat and power technologies create direct jobs in manufacturing, engineering, installation and maintenance as well as indirect jobs up and down the supply chain.
West Virginia has already seen some of this growth; a steel plant across the border in Youngstown is back in production. Elsewhere in the country, steel mills are firing up with coke batteries and blast furnaces as part of direct-reduced iron (DRI) plants. The plants produce at relatively low cost so-called sponge iron -- the product of direct reduction of iron ore and gas -- which is one of the hottest materials in the construction industry today.
Coal will -- and should -- recede as a source of energy. New energy sources will yield long-term gains -- an increase in jobs and in the improved health of the citizens of coal country and the nation as a whole.
Ned Helme is president of the Center for Clean Air Policy.