Way back in 2019, before anyone had heard of COVID, the national economy was enjoying record levels of success while New York’s was struggling. President Donald Trump was well-positioned for reelection, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo was trying to explain his state’s stagnation.
The previous year, 190,000 New Yorkers had fled to other states. Once-booming upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester and Binghamton led the state’s population loss. Cuomo blamed it on the weather, saying people departed for “climate-based” reasons. And Cuomo blamed Trump (no surprise there) for the discontinuation of state and local tax (SALT) deductions that he claimed created a $2 billion shortfall. Then-political-newcomer Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had scuttled Cuomo’s hard-fought Amazon deal, canceling 25,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue. New York state was in a rut.
And New York’s greatest economic opportunity still lies buried under its feet today.
Geological formations below ground hold tens of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The US Geological Survey estimates the Marcellus Shale formation contains 84 trillion cubic feet and the Utica Shale another 38 trillion. Large portions of these formations are in New York, where they sit untapped — because of Cuomo’s fracking ban, which he persuaded the Legislature to pass.
Cuomo couldn’t have known that the price of natural gas would more than quadruple after 2020, nor that Russia would cut liquefied-natural-gas exports to Europe, prompting rationing and fear for the winter. But he did know that natural gas — and the fracking necessary to retrieve it — would mean jobs, economic prosperity and opportunity for New Yorkers upstate. He ignored all that in the name of green science.
My organization, Power The Future, compared Pennsylvania’s economy with New York’s. Natural gas generated $1.7 billion in new tax revenue for the Keystone State from 2012 to 2019. Wages for oil and gas employees had increased 36% between 2007 and 2012. In fact, from the great recession of 2008 to 2012, when Pennsylvania was losing jobs overall, natural gas and fracking jobs increased 259%.
The natural-gas industry is so crucial to Pennsylvania that the Bernie Sanders-backed Senate candidate John Fetterman has magically reversed his opposition to fracking. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Josh Shapiro, who has been on the record as anti-fossil fuel and anti-fracking — and even sued the industry as attorney general — hides all this on his campaign website, saying he wants Pennsylvania to “remain an energy hub.”
So even Pennsylvania’s liberal Democrats are pro-natural-gas. Or at least claim to be.
Then there is New York, today with an even worse economic climate and greater population decline (not to mention skyrocketing crime). Cuomo is long gone. But New York’s anti-fossil fuel, anti-fracking, anti-commonsense policies remain. For now.
Facing voters for the first time atop the ticket, Gov. Kathy Hochul could seize on this buried opportunity and create thousands of jobs in rural areas with a tax revenue stream not based on the printed COVID money from Washington, DC. If she pushed the Legislature to revoke its Cuomo-led fracking ban, Hochul would become a champion of union jobs and lower consumer prices and give New York much needed energy-grid security.
Instead, she has embraced President Joe Biden’s green agenda, which has destroyed the national economy, driven inflation to record highs, weakened our national security, enriched Russian President Vladimir Putin, benefited China and cost thousands of jobs, with prospects of food shortages and blackouts. It’s a position so radical that even green-loving candidates in Pennsylvania run away from it.
Hochul’s Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, knows the potential fracking holds for New York. Calling for an end to the ban, he noted that “it means billions of dollars. Billions of dollars for us to press forward in the safe extraction of natural resources underneath us.”
Note that word “safe.” Greens use phony “environmental concerns” to scare people. If there were a kid in Pennsylvania sick from natural-gas production, MSNBC would have a camera crew camped on his front lawn. If there were communities poisoned from fracking, Biden would be there every day, squinting at the teleprompter, shaking hands with no one and bragging about his purported Scranton roots.
This industry has been so good to Pennsylvania that even its secret detractors cannot speak ill of it. It has been so good to America that we can remember 2019 and 2020 and long for the return of energy independence.
It would be so good for New York, too — if only ignorant politicians would get out of the way.
Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power the Future, a national nonprofit that advocates for American energy jobs.