Thursday, September 29, 2011

Drilling for facts

Marcellus hagiography is getting way out of hand. Here is an oped in New York that quotes a US Congressperson from Pennsylvania:
"Two of my counties have a zero percent unemployment. This has been very positive."
Zero percent unemployment?!  I don't see it.  I don’t care that someone actually out there said it... even if it was a congressperson. The news criteria of a quote makes a source does not trump simple verifiable factuality. There are no counties in Pennsylvania with zero unemployment rates. Nor any that close. By historical standards, most all PA counties have some pretty high unemployment rates these days.  Yet someone thinks it's zero in not one, but two whole counties?? 

So this is what gets me. So let's all agree the development of shale gas is a big economic deal. Does that mean it is responsible for everything. Here is another example. There was a pro-shale gas oped in Forbes last week. See: Buckeye Oil Billions Will Unleash an Ohio Manufacturing Tech Boom

Again, it is a positive economic story for sure.  Yet why does that piece not stick to the facts in abundance that could help make his case?   In it is a quote about how Marcellus Shale development has impacted Pittsburgh: 
"(Marcellus Shale) has already fueled a downtown construction boom in Pittsburgh."
Really?  Why do people say these things? Let's go through it. In Pittsburgh the biggest Downtown construction of late has clearly been the new PNC Tower. The decision or at least the idea to build the tower clearly dates back to late 2005 at least and its construction decision appears to have been influenced by a sizable TIF offered by city/school district and county. Hold that TIF thought for a moment.

So if that was really a Marcellus Shale influenced decision back then, someone was really really prescient down there at PNC and on the 5th Floor.

If that construction is not what the author thinks is shale gas related, then it must be the score of highly subsidized (in one form or another) Downtown condominium developments that have been completed in recent years. Most of those date back to decisions in the mid to early 00's or earlier.   The connection to Marcellus Shale in them is what exactly?

Let's see.. there were the two big bank operations centers built in town? Not really recent enough to be considered related to shale gas unless someone was really really looking into the future. Would have required help from the custom Delorean.

I know, he was thinking of almost completed tunnel construction and related. The $524 million in construction North Shore Connector and Downtown T station reconstruction is really a stealth way to get around the ban on drilling for shale gas in the City of Pittsburgh. We all know the Port Authority is never going to have the money to buy or even operate cars on the new spur line.  Of course the decision to build the NSC dates back to decisions decades ago.  .

The Casino.. that must be it. The Casino built on the same spot as the once planned Riverboat Casino here in town and resulting directly from a state licensing process that all but required it to be built in the city.   Don Barden was talking Marcellus Shale all the time.  Again, there must be frac(k?)ing equipment buried under the poker tables.

The entirely public Grant Street Transportation Center was built not all that long ago? That would be a hard argument to connect to shale gas. Those workers coming in from Oklahoma and Texas were not getting here by Greyhound as best I can tell. 

What am I missing? The New African American Center and it's wing devoted to minorities working on Developing shale gas in the Pennsylvania T (the other T that is).

Look.. I don't believe the guy made it up all by himself. The question is what did someone tell the author that lead him to believe Marcellus shale was causing, or did cause the boom in Downtown development?  Sure seems that if you go through all of the above, the biggest factor in any recent boom in Downtown construction has been a lot of public money and subsidies or related public incentives. Funny that isn't mentioned, but there is a story for someone to dig into. If there is a Marcellus side story in what has happened Downtown over the last decade, it is a very very small small piece of the puzzle and pales in comparison to a lot of public investment...

Oh wait.. I forgot the Consol Arena.  Named at the time for more of a coal company ironically...  but built with public money through and through.  Point Park construction?  Duquesne construction?

You have to be proud of me.  I made it through all of that without mentioning the obvious issue with the oped.. namely that the Marcellus industry is actually doing all it can to boycott the City of Pittsburgh which would impact especially its downtown.  The author must not have received that memo.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

I guess Southpointe is a honorary Downtown annex.

Incidentally, that's your connection to the Downtown residential boom, if there is one at all (and I'm not really saying there is)--Millcraft.

Friday, September 30, 2011 1:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe he's talking about pending construction, i.e., the new PNC tower that will go up next to the Warner Theater. Still, that's not a "huge" boom by any measure. Or perhaps he's including the universities. Out of towners have a very loose definition of Pittsburgh's "Downtown" boundaries. Like that Children's Hospital construction cost story that you recently pointed to. The story said that Children's moved from a cramped "downtown" location.

Bottom line, though, is that the Forbes energy consultant contributor is full of it.

Friday, September 30, 2011 9:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glenn Thompson, the congressman who said there's no unemployment in two counties, is a red-blooded Tea Partier and former nursing home administrator. Of course he's going to say dumb stuff and not know, or care to know, much about economic issues. I blame the journalist in part for printing the quote and not checking it out.

Friday, September 30, 2011 9:59:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Maybe somebody is counting all of the new hotels that are going to be appearing at various parts of the East End. I still haven't heard what is supposed to happen to Wanderer's sign post.

Friday, September 30, 2011 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

You left out the new hospital built to treat all the people that got sick from gas extraction.

This guy obviously doesn't know what he is talking too many politicians.

Both sides of the debate are guilty of exaggerations, misleading statements, and out right lies. One needs to be diligent to find the truth.

Nat gas is having and will continue to have a large impact, some good, some bad, on the area. We won't know exactly how big for at least ten more years.

As for that boycott, did you notice the recent shale exposition was held in Philly? There ain't no gas there so why was it held there? Coulda been to gain favor with local political lever pullers, I guess.

Friday, September 30, 2011 4:35:00 PM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

Glenn Thompson has some good personal qualities, but he is not smart, nor close to it. Most likely, he is regurgitating something passed to him by a poor source.

Saturday, October 01, 2011 8:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent a note to Thompson's office and the reporter, and a LTE to the Ithaca paper, pointing out that BLS stats show that no county in PA has lower than 5 percent unemployment. Here's the response that I got from the reporter:

"Thanks for writing. I was merely reporting what Congressman Thompson said. If his quote was misleading, perhaps you should take it up with his staff. I will take note of that fact for future reference."

I respectfully replied that he should use some journalistic judgment the next time he considers printing a quote as absurd as "zero unemployment".

Sunday, October 02, 2011 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

"Thanks for writing. I was merely reporting that the Congressman said it was raining live frogs last Thursday. If his quote was misleading, perhaps you should take it up with his staff."

Monday, October 03, 2011 10:44:00 AM  

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