Let’s revisit some old headlines.
Utica Shale Could Transform Ohio Rust Belt into Diamond Belt? Alright! Let’s check up on that last one.
So yeah, fracking hasn’t turned the rust belt into the diamond belt. And worse than broken promises, it’s holding us back in a lot of ways.
22 Appalachian counties produce 90% of the region’s natural gas, I live in one of them. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis came out on the last ten years of production in the region and… it ain’t great. Over that time, our region’s share of national income fell by 6.3%, jobs fell by 7.6%, and our share of the national population fell by nearly 11%.
The fracking boom happened as the region lost income, lost jobs, and lost people.
Which unfortunately isn’t surprising. Appalachia knows extractive industry. We built the country. We mined the coal, made the steel, churned out the pottery, and made the chemicals. Industries fly in from out of town, take our wealth, and leave us with the bag. Gas is just the latest thing making out-of-towners rich, and the gravy train rolling strong.
And where does it go? You wouldn’t know it from walking around town here.
And yeah, a handful of 20-somethings are making six figures. Same for land owners with royalties. God knows Halliburton is making their money. They were even nice enough to donate to local schools and build new football fields to keep us happy.
But the water here ain’t good. Raising your kids downwind from these frac pads comes with it’s own risk too. And it seems that pinning our hopes on a boom/bust industry headed for the dumps as the world moves to energy that won’t kill us is not great for jobs either.
But what chaps my ass so much, is that we have nothing else right now. We get all the industries that richer people kick out of their backyards. And we take it because it’s better than nothing, so they say.
But there is so much more we’re capable of. Rebuilding the country to adapt to climate change that is barreling toward us whether we like it or not *will not happen without blue-collar people*. Their skills are what will save us.
Here’s a small-town dive bar story.
For those that don’t know, I live above the dive bar where I pour drinks every Thursday and Friday in the upper Ohio Valley. Hilarity always ensues.
Weird shit happens in my dive bar after midnight. My favorite regular comes in at 12:30am on the spot. And I truly love this man, he’s a friend now, but SUCH a character. Names Jimbo and he’s the kinda guy that walks everywhere. Whether that’s by choice or necessity, I don’t know. But he works the nightshift at a milk plant and it…. *sucks* so he washes that garbage away with the same order every time. Busch copper top and a shot of McMasters.
Jimbo is one of those rail-thin dudes with enough energy to split an atom. His mind is just, unpredictable and not to be tamed. And his appearance matches. Hair like a wild-ass skullet going in every direction. He’s always carrying weird shit in his pockets and wears several hoodies plus an army jacket he got in Vietnam. He loves HAM radio. You get the picture.
Same thing every night and it’s… my high point. He busts through the door. Doesn’t break stride. And launches into the first of many wild-ass topics. One just boils over into the other. Each is less imaginable than the last.
And usually, this is happening as semi-ambient background noise when I’m rushing like crazy and closing the bar. And I’ll hear him say something and think… I gotta write this down… but by the time I finish the thought he’s already buried it with like seven more gold nuggets. There’s just so much you want to write down but it’s like trying to catch rain drops.
So the other night I’m cleaning up and he was like “Ah man, don’t die on payday that something Donny don’t would do and don’t do what Donny don’t does.”
I’m carrying bottles out the door, he’s trailing off, I come back in after like.. 5 minutes and he’s like “Man camels suck but their milk is good for ya! Don’t kiss their lips though they’ll get ya.. Mouth noises”.
And the best part is after he’s taken you on a wild ride, and you’re trying to figure out if you’re in a dream, he’ll stop and look down at his beer for a second, and be like “Ah man I’m just makin’ this shit up”.
And that REALLY sends you. So many questions… Like… you know?! You’re in on the joke?! You’re just fucking with me right now, or are you like… an alien.. Or GOD?! WHAT ARE YOU! You’re gathering yourself and he’ll just explode over to the jukebox to throw on Led Zeppelin and launch into the next rant.
It’s… honestly one of the best parts of my life right now.