This post originally appeared on FreeEnterprise.com.
Though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “good government,” Iowa is, in fact, an example of a state that is supporting its economy by working with businesses to attract investment and create jobs.
Perhaps nowhere is this commitment to free enterprise more apparent than in the Des Moines metropolitan area. It takes about 20 minutes to make the drive from Des Moines to Altoona, which recently garnered a significant amount of media attention thanks to a technology giant’s announcement that it would expand its presence there.
Facebook, it turns out, had long mulled opening satellite buildings in Iowa, a state whose 4.4% unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average of 6.2%. Aside from its strong labor market, Iowa has also benefited from initiatives undertaken by its governor, Terry Branstad, who has championed a number of programs aimed at drawing strategic investment in the state. Last year, for example, Branstad headed to California, where he urged business leaders to boost their presence in Iowa, the Associated Press reported.
For its part, Facebook representatives said the company’s decision to build a remote data center in Altoona was spurred by, among other factors, the state’s robust renewable energy sector.
With slightly more than 3 million residents, Iowa ranks only 30th among all states in terms of population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet the American Wind Energy Association pegs the state’s installed wind capacity at just under 5,200 megawatts—the third highest such level in the U.S. Iowa’s wind power industry, moreover, provides 27.4% of the state’s total electricity needs, placing the Hawkeye State ahead of all other states.
Additionally, Facebook cited Iowa’s workforce as yet another motivating factor. “We’re excited to have found a new home in Iowa, which has an abundance of wind-generated power and is home to a great talent pool that will help build and operate the facility,” Jay Parikh, a vice president of infrastructure engineering at the social network, said in a statement.
The Menlo Park, California-based tech giant also teamed with a local utility to develop and build its own wind turbine system capable of supplying electricity to the Altoona data center, explained Vincent Van Son, a Facebook data center energy manager. “When we settled on Altoona as the location for our fourth data center, one of the deciding factors was the opportunity to help develop a new wind project in the state,” Van Son wrote in a message.
“The project brings additional investment and jobs to the region, and in effect it makes it possible, on an annualized basis, for 100% of our energy needs to be met entirely with one of Iowa’s most abundant renewable resources,” he added.
Nonetheless, Iowa has done more to attract investment than simply cultivate its wind energy sector. According to the Iowa Workforce Development, lawmakers have also approved a spate of enticing incentives and tax breaks for companies that hire state workers and invest in depressed economic areas.
Indeed, it was these sorts of incentives that prompted Microsoft to develop its next $1.1 billion data center in Iowa instead of Washington, Erik Smith wrote in the Seattle Times. The Washington State legislature had failed to extend high-tech tax credits, Smith reported, which enabled Iowa to swoop in and offer the Redmond, Washington-based technology company roughly $20 million in tax incentives. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, scores of high-paying jobs will result from the deal.
As Iowa continues to lobby business to set up shop in the state, it is also working to enhance its workforce. Late last year, Branstad embarked on an initiative that seeks to draw military veterans to the state, the Des Moines Register reported. By employing such an all-encompassing approach to stimulating its economy, proponents argue that Iowa is well on its way to reaching the governor’s lofty goal of creating 200,000 new jobs in just five years.
The New York Times reports that the Pittsburgh International Airport is joining the many Pennsylvania landowners who are tapping the natural gas abundance of the Marcellus Shale:
Pittsburgh’s airport is struggling financially and mired in debt, with sharply lower traffic ever since US Airways began phasing it out as a bustling hub in 2004. Long gone are the days when British Airways flew 747s to London, and TWA flew to Frankfurt.
For salvation, airport officials are looking down — about 6,000 feet. The quiet runways, it turns out, are sitting on enough natural gas to run the whole state of Pennsylvania for a year and a half, and this month, Consol Energy will drill its first well here to tap the gas, which county officials say will bring them nearly half a billion dollars over the next 20 years.
The well is outside the airport fence but, with horizontal drilling, it will extract the rich deposits that lie under the terminals and runways.
Developing natural gas below a metropolitan airport isn’t new. Both the Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth airports earn millions annually from the energy underneath.
Natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale is going sky-high, and there are no signs that will let up.
Responsible energy development is helping Pennsylvanians by creating thousands of jobs and offering landowners additional revenue streams. Just as it sees the opportunities in the sky above, Pittsburgh's airport also sees the opportunities below. Unfortunately New York State residents also living above the Marcellus Shale are left out because of a state moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.Video of No Fracking, No Boom
The Interior Department has begun work on its new five-year leasing program, and the Atlantic coast might be opened to energy development. The Hill reports that earlier this year, Interior opened the door for seismic exploration of the Atlantic coast. With 87% of the outer continental shelf off-limits right now, that would be welcome news.
Offshore development has tremendous potential. In July, Mark Green wrote that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released new estimates of how much oil and natural gas is off the Atlantic coast:
BOEM now believes areas within the 200 nautical mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to Florida, could hold 4.72 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas. Those numbers are 43 percent and 20 percent higher, respectively, than the last government estimate of the Atlantic OCS done in 2011.
In 2013 at a House of Representatives Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, Christopher Guith, vice president of policy at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, explained the economic benefits from offshore development that are already occurring:
Offshore development supports over 240,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country, but nowhere is this more evident than the Gulf Coast economy. IHS Global Insight estimated that in 2009 the offshore oil and natural gas industry represented 9.3% of total employment and 12% of the economy, and generated almost $6 billion in state and local taxes and over $13 billion in federal revenue.
Opening up the Atlantic as well as more of the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic will mean more jobs and strengthened energy security. A 2013 study found that opening the Atlantic outer continental shelf to oil and natural gas exploration will create 280,000 jobs.
It may surprise you that in our divided country there’s bipartisan support for expanding offshore energy development. Members of Congress from both parties have sent letters urging expanded offshore energy exploration.
There’s also bipartisanship among governors. In February, Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Republican governors in advocating for offshore energy development.
Bipartisanship also extends to the public. A recent poll found that increased offshore energy development has majority support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Members of Congress, governors, and the public are all on board. Hopefully the administration will be too.
Building the Keystone XL pipeline could lead to as much as four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the State Department has estimated for the controversial project, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change that relies on different calculations about oil consumption.
The study’s authors based their calculation on the premise that increased supplies of petroleum through the pipeline would push down global oil prices marginally, and that would lead to an increase in consumption and thus pollution.
But wait, the State Department concluded in its final environmental impact statement that Canada’s oil sands crude will be developed and affect global consumption no matter how it’s transported:
[A]pproval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.
Based upon that analysis, the State Department determined that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment.
What’s more, the AP reports that some economists are skeptical of the study’s findings:
An increase of 121 million tons of carbon dioxide is dwarfed by the 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide the world pumped into the air in 2013. That's why University of Sussex economist Richard Tol dismissed the calculated Keystone effect as merely a drop in the bucket. If somebody is concerned about climate change, he wrote in an email, the pipeline "should be the furthest from your mind."
Independent energy economist Judith Dwarkin in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, dismissed the study, faulting the idea that added oil production will lower the price and boost demand. Usually, she said, it's consumption that spurs price and then oil production.
Since we know this oil will be developed, the Keystone XL pipeline should be a part of the transport mix. It will create jobs, boost local economies, improve America’s energy security, and do it with minimal impact on the environment.
This study didn’t offer any reason to not approve it.8 Key Facts about the Keystone Pipeline from U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In 2011, polluted water was discovered in Pavillion, WY. EPA jumped to conclusions and released a non-peer reviewed report declaring that hydraulic fracturing was the cause. After issuing that report, EPA backed away from its claim. So much so that in 2013 it let Wyoming state environmental officials take over the investigation.
The first of three reports has been released and finds no evidence that natural gas wells stimulated by hydraulic fracturing caused water contamination, the AP reports:
A draft state report released Wednesday on a possible explanation why well water in a central Wyoming gas field smells foul and tastes bad points away from leaky gas wells as a source of the problem.
Testing showed no evidence gas wells in the Pavillion area are leaking produced gas into the ground or providing a route for deep gas to seep into aquifers tapped for household water, according to the draft report by the agency that regulates oil and gas development in Wyoming.
The release of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report, which examined 50 gas wells within a quarter-mile of 15 water wells, opens a 30-day period for the public and others to weigh in on the draft findings.
Encana, the petroleum company that owns the Pavillion gas field, pointed to the latest findings as evidence their gas wells aren’t to blame.
“The report confirms that the natural gas wells in the Pavillion Field were soundly constructed and provide no migration pathway into domestic water wells,” Encana spokesman Doug Hock said in an emailed statement.
I hope in the future EPA doesn't carelessly make accusations against hydraulic fracturing, a decades-old technology.