What MAGA looks like: A report from West Virginia
The economic vector of West Virginia (and parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio adjoining it) has reversed course since the election of President Donald Trump, going from depressed (and forgotten) to growing and attracting huge structural investments from overseas. You can see the changes on the ground, not just in dry economic statistics. It is one thing to read about GNP growth roughly doubling since President Trump reformed the oppressive regulatory environment and devoted attention to reviving King Coal to his former majesty in West Virginia (and then some).
Casey Jenkins of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader writes from Wheeling, W.Va. about what is already visible and what is on the way for one of the most depressed areas of the nation:
As 2017 closes, the wait is on to see how the announcement by China Energy to spend $83.7 billion to build petrochemical plants and electricity[-]generators in West Virginia will unfold in 2018 and beyond. The proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker for Belmont County, meanwhile, a project with an estimated price tag of up to $6 billion, will eventually realize an affirmative or negative decision, as well.
Still, even before these "downstream" investments, new pipelines continue to be built, new wells are being drilled and fracked, and more coal continues to be shipped out of the region.
Keep in mind that the China Energy proposed investment is larger than the state domestic product of West Virginia. But already things are visibly booming:
Virtually anywhere one goes in the Upper Ohio Valley, he or she will likely see signs of the oil and natural gas industry. Whether one sees rigs rising above the horizon in Belmont County, pipelines being installed in Marshall County, pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles parked at hotels in Ohio County, flaring at processing plants in Harrison County, or "sand can" trucks traveling between fracking operations along highways, the signs are clear[:] ...
- the 36-inch[-]diameter Nexus Pipeline, which will travel 255 miles to connect the Marcellus and Utica shale region to the Detroit area at a cost of nearly $2 billion for developer Spectra Energy;
- the $4.3[-]billion Rover Pipeline, which will ship up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in pipe up to 42 inches in diameter from West Virginia and Ohio to Michigan;
- the $3.5[-]billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run southward from the MarkWest Mobley plant in Wetzel County toward Virginia; and
- the $5.1[-]billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is planned to be 564 miles long with the 42-inch pipeline diameter in stretching from West Virginia to North Carolina.
These investments are structural, meaning they pave the way for regular, continuing flow of a product – in this case, clean-burning natural gas. The downstream consumers of this gas will use it to create even more economic activity. Gas is the best fuel for electric power production, as the capital investment required to generate electricity is far less than for alternative fuels, and no emissions take place other than water vapor and CO2 (which helps plants grow better and raises global temperature only in climate models, not in the real world). Natural gas can also be used to provide feedstock for many plastics and other useful materials.
And what are the new jobs like?
[Owner of the fourth largest coal company in the U.S. Robert] Murray said a typical miner in his company receives the equivalent of about $90,000 per year when accounting for benefits and overtime pay.