How People in Northwest PA Are Coping with the Increasing Cost of Oil
Previously published on May 10, 2010
Northwestern, Pennsylvania is a region uniquely affected by rising crude oil prices. Between sprawl and severe winters, our economically suppressed population faces the most direct consequences of increasing oil prices. On the other hand, Titusville, PA is also the birthplace of the oil industry while most of our Commonwealth sits on one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world. As an energy rich region, our part of the world has hope for a better future; however, coping with unstable, increasing oil prices continues to be a challenge.
Despite having a significant oil reserve left from a golden age when Erie, Crawford, Warren, and Venango Counties used to be a centerpiece of our industrial culture, globalization and outsourcing left us with a depressed economy lacking the diversity to reinvent our communities. Because cheaper oil could be found elsewhere, i.e. Texas, Alaska, then the Middle East, Pennsylvania lost almost all of its oil industry. Meanwhile, the consolidation of refineries across our Nation also resulted in the dismantling of nearly our entire refinery capacity.
As a consequence, our oil industry cannot supply the energy we need nor can it produce the economic stimulus necessary for job growth and development across our region. Granted, global pricing limits our discount significantly and our region does pay around the National Average for oil energy, but affordability is becoming a major issue as prices jump then retreat erratically. This is especially difficult for our large population of elderly and steadily expanding ranks of the poor, especially during winters where increasingly unstable weather patterns push artic air into our region for long periods of time with high wind speeds and heavy snow falls that quickly melt off.
Fortunately, many land owners are able to take advantage of natural gas wells and the resulting royalties while this additional energy source certainly adds some economic stimulus to our region. Unfortunately, there is very little the rest of us can do to cope with increased heating and driving costs. Not only must commuters drive relatively long distances to work, which increases the cost of employment, few public transportation options exist and older buildings use energy less efficiently. Sadly, a lack of funds for investment leaves our region in a catch twenty-two that results in slow progress when we need rapid development to take advantage of the current energy market.
On the other hand, progress continues to be made while long-term success will be achieved if we continue to rebuild our energy economy, which fluctuating prices hinders severely, as well as a more diverse economic infrastructure. In the meantime, we cope by weatherizing our homes, becoming smarter drivers, and cutting back wherever possible. With smart investments and help from outside interests, including private investors and the federal government, Northwestern, PA can once again thrive even as we adapt to rising oil prices and the many other economic realities our communities face.