New Website Aims to Evaluate Shale-Focused Studies and Cut Through Bias

Studies vary widely on how many jobs oil and natural-gas drilling will bring to eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. 
“It only takes a small assumption to create a result that is much higher or lower,” said Matthew Rousu, associate professor of economics at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., and creator of a website designed to evaluate such studies. 
Confusion and bias among those economic reports led to the site’s creation. The Economic Impact Review will post and review economic impact studies. 
Though the initial emphasis is on Marcellus Shale studies, the plan is to expand the reviews to other economic-impact reports. 
The site is not funded by the oil and gas industry or by any environmental group, Rousu said. 
The same types of studies on the same issues are being conducted in the Utica Shale, he said. 
“We try to take an objective look at the studies and provide an objective critique,” Rousu said. 
Rousu has reviewed a study that relates to Ohio and the Utica Shale. “The Cost of Fracking” was released by Environment Ohio and attempts to calculate the potential negative costs of hydraulic fracturing. 
He said the study does a good job of attempting to list all costs associated with fracking, but the study also has flaws. 
“I think the topic is important, and the authors do a good job trying to list any cost that could possibly be linked to fracking. They don’t attempt to estimate an ‘external cost per drilling well’ or an overall cost of fracking for society, however, which would be extremely useful,” Rousu said. “The authors seem too much like anti-drilling advocates often associating costs that are far-fetched, counting costs already paid by the drilling companies and seemingly reporting only the studies that help advance their cause.”
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