Economic fate too often in hands of others

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Mid-Ohio Valley residents are learning lessons in patience, as hoped-for economic prosperity at the hands of the oil and natural gas industries has been slow to materialize. A little farther up I-77, Guernsey County, Ohio, is already dealing with a downturn in the boom that brought such an economic boost just a few short years ago.

A steep decline in the price of oil, combined with a refusal on the part of the federal government to build the pipelines and issue the permits that would send our region’s glut of natural gas to parts of the world where demand is still high, mean companies are drilling much less than anticipated. Rigs are idle. And the infrastructure and processing plants that were on their way have been left on the drawing board.

“This downturn has been traumatic, drastic. I can’t think of enough adjectives,” David Hill, owner of an oil-and-gas firm in Byesville, told The Columbus Dispatch.

In fact, even if demand does ramp back up, officials in that region do not expect anything approaching the boom they envisioned, four or five years ago. And, certainly, any uptick would be very gradual.

“It will probably never get as busy as it did before,” said Jo Sexton, president and CEO of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, to the Dispatch.

But imagine what would happen if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was no longer able to flex its muscle and impact the U.S. economy so negatively. Knowing what would happen if Americans had easy access to a domestic source of reasonably priced fuel, OPEC decided to flood the market with ramped up production that dramatically reduced the price of its own product. In fact, this fall, OPEC actually issued a report that included the boast “Indeed, all eyes are on how quickly U.S. production falls.”

This country has coal, oil, natural gas, water, wind and sun in quantities most of the rest of the world cannot imagine. Yet, decisions in both Washington, D.C., and OPEC headquarters mean we watch our regional economies boom and bust at the hands of leaders in countries including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya.

But we are used to it. “When it was booming, it was good,” said one business owner, in that same story from The Dispatch. “Then, it slows up and you have to wait again for it to take off.”

Imagine what would happen if Americans got tired of waiting.

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