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Numbers in the News

Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Forestry could be compared
with Fort Knox. The agency has responsibility for about
1.5 million acres of state forest land that overlies shale
gas reserves with a value in the billions of dollars.
Spokesperson Rebecca Bowen reports that about
700,000 acres of state forest land could be made available for gas drilling without significant impact on the
ecosystem and long-term forest management plans.
However, she said, a moratorium on additional leasing
that was imposed in 2010 remains in effect.
So far, through leases signed in 2008-10, the state
has made 385,000 acres available to drilling. Another
290,000 acres could also be drilled at any time because
the state does not own subsurface rights.
Prior to the shale gas industry, there were 1,537 shallow/ vertical wells drilled on state forest land. Between
2008 and 2012, the state approved 844 shale gas wells,
starting with 21 in 2008 and peaking at 315 in 2011. The
2012 total as of Oct. 1 is 45.
Total number of deep shale gas wells actually drilled
on state forest land stands at 487, involving 208 well
“Our goal in managing the state forest is to balance
the uses and the values, while maintaining the long-term
health and viability and sustainability of the forest,” Bowen pointed out.

A recent survey of U.S. employees found that half are
eager to loan money, interest-free, to the federal government. Asked how they prefer to receive any refund of income
taxes withheld, 50 percent said they want to continue receiving a lump-sum refund of overpayments the following year. Most of the remainder (46 percent) said they’d
prefer to have less money withheld from each paycheck
during the tax year.

Three more “circuit hikers” were recently registered
by the Susquehannock Trail Club (STC) in Potter County. Lewis Russell of Brookland, Wayne McKenzie of
Coudersport and David Knepper of Napierville, Ill., are
the latest hikers to complete the 85-mile loop.
The trail was blazed in 1966, using state forest and
park land. Its northern gateway is near the Susquehannock Forest District headquarters on Denton Hill. Southern gateway is at Ole Bull State Park.
Anyone seeking more information on the circuit hiker
program of the STC should contact Bill Boyd by email
at billboydsts@gmail.com.

Electric cars are becoming more attractive options, but
a relatively tiny percentage of buyers are choosing them.
A $7,500 federal tax credit has made the electric option
close to even to vehicles with internal combustion engines and there are calls to raise that to $10,000.
The two leading models are the Nissan Leaf ($36,050)
and the Chevrolet Volt ($39,995). They have rung up just
26,100 sales this year, representing 0.2 percent of U.S.
auto sales.
Experts say the prices need to come down and electriccharging infrastructure needs to improve before sales
will rise appreciably, even though the long-term economic arguments are persuasive.
Electric cars cost about $18 monthly in charging costs,
while gas-powered cars cost about $147 to power.
A survey of Leaf and Volt owners showed that 43
percent charge the cars’ batteries away from home, and
85 percent of those do so in a place where they do not
have to pay. Average daily commute for the owners is 34
miles, which is within the range of most electric vehicles
on the market.

Financial woes are growing at the U.S. Postal Service.
Loss for the most recent fiscal year was $15.9 billion,
and that figure will likely grow in 2013. More than $11
billion of the recent year’s loss was due to mounting
mandatory costs for future retiree health benefits.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe continues to call
on Congress to allow the Postal Service to eliminate Saturday delivery, which would initially save $5 billion annually, and the closing of some low-volume rural post
The Postal Service has been rocked by declining mail
volume as individuals and businesses switch to internetbased options in place of letters and paper bills. There
was a five-percent drop in first-class mail volume over
the past 12 months.

Americans are so conditioned to see the nation at the
mercy of the Middle East that they are barely aware of
massive strides being made toward energy independence. U.S. oil output has risen 25 percent since 2008
and is forecasted to rise by another 30 percent by 2020
to 11.1 million barrels per day.
Petroleum imports have fallen from 60 percent of consumption as recently as 2005 to 42 percent today.
Shale gas production will further even the playing
field. The U.S. has already overtaken Russia as the
world’s largest gas producer and shale gas accounts for
37 percent of the production, compared to 2 percent a
decade ago.

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