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EDITORIAL: Winter of our content: Natural gas drilling warms consumers’ wallets

Baby, it’s cold outside. But inside most people are fortunate enough to be toasty warm — and those who heat their houses with natural gas also have the luxury of knowing that their utility bills will not rise like heat up a chimney.

It wasn’t always so. As recently as 10 years ago, cold weather would put a chill in family budgets. What has changed can be summed up in two words, encouraging or controversial, depending on who says them: Marcellus Shale.

As the Post-Gazette’s Michael Sanserino reported Sunday quoting industry sources, Pittsburgh a decade ago was one of a series of delivery points as gas moved from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. Now it sits atop one of the great natural gas fields of the world, so the supply is ample, delivery isn’t a problem and savings result because the gas doesn’t have to be transported long distances.

That means consumers don’t take a cold shower when temperatures fall. To be sure, heating bills will rise modestly for most consumers using natural gas, but there’s a logical reason for that: The colder weather means more gas is needed to heat homes. Peoples Natural Gas estimates the average gas bill will go up from $173 in the usual January to $198 in this colder one.

The newfound advantages of Marcellus Shale also hold a public policy lesson for this region. Those who would argue for a moratorium on gas drilling, or even an outright ban, are rejecting not just more regional jobs but also advantages to the consumer pocketbook. That is why this newspaper supports a well-regulated gas drilling industry.

The Marcellus Shale tract is a gift horse that can be saddled up to work for us or shooed away out of an excess of caution. This could be the winter of even more discontent; the fact that it’s not is because natural gas drilling makes dollars and sense.

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