May 01, 2012

Not much room in the inn

I am by no means the brightest crayon in the box--and if I ever come close to forgetting that, the Spousal Unit is usually right there to remind me. Another case in point occurred on an otherwise glorious road trip from one corner of WV to another to try to drum up support for creating a Future Fund for our state from taxes on natural resources.

The first stop on the journey was to the beautiful and blessed counties in the southeast, Greenbrier and Summers. Then back through Charleston, up through Parkersburg and along the mighty Ohio River to New Martinsville in Wetzel County.

I didn't bother to try to reserve a room, considering it to be a truth universally acknowledged that aside from graduation, homecoming, major football games and other high holy days of obligation, there is never a need to reserve a room in advance in any West Virginia town.

Fool that I was. I had forgotten that Wetzel County is ground zero for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. As in Fracks-R-Us. I hit town around 9 at night and every motel I could find was full--and the parking lots were full of trucks with out of state plates.

One of the sore points of the Marcellus boom is that most of the drilling and pipeline jobs go to people from out of state, who incidentally need a place to stay. I saw plates from Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan, Texas and pretty much anywhere but here.

(I was driving a rental with NY plates, so I don't have a whole lot of room to talk on that point).

It started to look like I'd either have to go up to Wheeling or down to Parkersburg to crash when I decided to try one last place and got the last room available.

The most interesting part was a conversation with the hostess. She said they were full most every night, at least from Sunday to Thursday, with gas workers from all over. I asked whether they were a rowdy bunch and she said no. Most days they are up and out by 5 or 6 and sometimes don't get back till after dark. By 9, she said, it was pretty quiet. Duly noted.

I spent the next day seeing what gasland really looks like. Short answer: not terribly pretty. I'll hold off till I can upload some pictures but here's the punchline: we've seen lots of coal, oil and gas booms and busts in this state. More busts then booms, no anatomical reference intended. We need to do something different this time around to ensure that WV profits more from its natural wealth in the 21st century than it did in the 20th.

1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

I recall a segment on the radio a while back about how they had mexican guest workers working at the lumber mill in Mingo County too.