Friday, April 09, 2010

Follow those stories - Marcellus numerology and more

PG looks at the disconnect between the data and talk thus far on Marcellus jobs in the state.  And while fully conceding the skill set of miners and potential Marcellus workers are probably not direct substitutes, it's interesting to read that and the other energy related piece in the PG today.  Looking at the role of coal in the economy is the main theme, but it has a factoid in passing I had not caught:
" Last year's economic downturn hit Pennsylvania's workers especially hard, as the state's production (of coal) sunk to its lowest level in more than 100 years: 58.1 million tons"
So overall, whatever is happening with shale it is not great times for state energy workers which is belied by many things but especially the high unemployment in the areas of the region still most impacted by coal.  Greene, Fayette, Washington counties all have some of the highest unemployment around.  That and local coal barge traffic is now at a 15 year low...  which translates to real jobs in the region's river economy.

On energy and employment numbers.. Trib looks at the state's wind industry. One note there is that they highlight the Spanish firm Gamesa that moved into the state to make windmill blades.  It mentions just that Gamesa had opened a manufacturing plant in Ebensburg just east of Pittsburgh, but last I heard most had been laid off not long ago????  Althought this local tv report says the plant has 250 folks... so I don't know the status...  Funny how none of the reports add up to a consistent number...  the Trib article says the firm has 250 folks employed statewide including HQ in Philly and another plant out east which would not leave many folks here.  and I'm not the only one confused. A very recent letter to the editor out in Johnstown says there are 300 folks working at the plant in Ebensberg.   So who knows the very latest?  If they have ramped back up, I'm surprised I didn't catch news of that.  Overall Gamesa is  not doing great on Wall Street either of late.  Anyway,  all gets to the same big disconnect between perception and reality in the economy. 

So who knows about the present, looking toward the future it's still worth keep watch on how far natural gas prices are plunging ever more.  Am not implying all natural gas fields in the US are impacted the same by that.. in fact you could think of an argument that if price stays low the relatively low cost producers could benefit some if higher cost production shuts down.  Was what has happened within the coal industry historically around here, but natgas production is not coal obviously.  Even if there is some bounceback, the range natgas is trading in these days is actually off the chart (on the low end that is) on the range of prices the big producers were planning on.  That's gotta mean something.  While the (local) miners may still not have ramped up... all this real estate activity I know has been a boon for a lot of lawyers..  Waiting for that story in the news next. 

Lest anyone say I am ignoring other news.. it's not like there is not real activity with regards to Marcellus stuff... including this $1.7 billion dollar deal hitting the wire as I type (literally)..  Still the issues of the jobs (or lack thereof) resulting from all this financial activity which sure feels like speculation......   and btw.  the 300K acres mentioned in that PR comes out to about 10 times the size of the entire City of Pittsburgh.  Almost as big as all of Allegheny County.
Anyway...   maybe we can help the natgas price out.   If the state was not so broke you would think that they could take the lead in building a natgas distribution infrastructure for autos in the state. Forget electric hybrids, I think natgas cars could be made all around right now.  Anyone remember when the city of Pittsburgh ran a fleet of natgas cars?  But is there a commercial natgas pump in the city anywhere any more?


Blogger Grimace said...

Seems like a lot of speculation still out there. On that note, what caused the bottom to fall out of the plan to sell mineral rights at the airport? Was it the Airport Authority not wanting to make a deal in times of low prices, was it the producers not seeing value, was it a screwup that the Airport Authority is known for?

There is a ton of land out there and they could use all the money they can get to repay the ton of debt they have, which would theoretically lower landing fees and make the airport more attractive for airlines expanding service.

Friday, April 09, 2010 9:44:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

It seems to me that the growing spread between oil and natural gas prices has to be good for converting energy users over to natural gas, which in turn should eventually lead to higher production levels . . . but eventually can take a while I suppose.

Friday, April 09, 2010 9:53:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Oddly timed that you post about NatGas stations two days after the DEP annouced this:

To summarize, Equitable and Giant Eagle got $700k and $900k, respectively, for public CNG fueling stations (among other things).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:40:00 AM  

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