Editor's notebook.

Author:Share, Jeff

OK, I'm a sucker for natural gas. Maybe I've learned something these past 25 years that George Mitchell tried to explain: natural gas is the fuel of the future and can revitalize America. After I read this story off the Reuters news wire, can you blame me?

"There's some good news for workers in Ohio: for the first time ever, Ford will shift medium-duty truck production to the Buckeye State, out of Mexico. Ford Motor Co (F.N) will start building its medium-duty F-650 and F-750 commercial trucks at a Cleveland-area plant, moving production out of Mexico for the first time. The shift to the 41-year-old plant in Avon Lake means that about 1,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers union will keep their jobs, Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president, said in a statement issued by Ford.

Now I'm not saying the shale boom was the reason for this decision, but read on and you'll see that it certainly wasn't a negative factor.

Ohio and Pennsyvania, along with all of their Rust Belt neighbors, have long suffered from a never-ending loss of manufacturing jobs, zero population growth, diminishing tax base and steady economic decline. And there was little reason for hope. If you were young and wanted to earn a real living, you left, as many young people did, never to look back.

West Virginia was always an economic disaster due to its terrain that inhibits any type of development except mining. But with growing environmental resistance to coal and a desire for a life outside of the mines, West Virginia is now well-positioned in the enormously productive Marcellus and Utica shale plays, as are Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Western Pennsylvania is undergoing an economic renaissance that some optimists expect to outmatch the steel industry. Companies assured of cheap, long-term fuel costs are moving in, expanding or staying put. The few problems that do emerge tend to be resolved quickly. An op-ed piece by Bud Weinstein, associate director of SMU's Maguire Energy Institute, was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Aug. 12. It sums up rather nicely what the fracking boom has done for America.

"Until a few years ago, prevailing conventional wisdom viewed America's manufacturing sector in secular decline, unable to compete with lower-cost production platforms in Mexico and China. The data seemed to bear this out. From 2000-10, the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. dropped by a third,...

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