It’s a complex story that is centered on the debate between the environment and energy sources, personal property rights vs. the public good, the short-term economy vs. our long-term goals, state and local governments vs. the overall national wealth, and a myriad of other topics. The debate has touched a nerve with people and parties on all sides of the issue.
But one thing you might not be aware of is how this debate affects your hardscaping, specifically stone pricing.
So how do alternative energy sources and stone pricing affect one another? You wouldn't think they would necessarily be related, but if you priced out stone prices as recently as a year or two ago, you may be surprised to know that the current prices are likely much higher.
Here on the east coast, and in many other parts of the US, blue stone and gray stone are probably the most commonly used types of stone for flatwork. Most of these stones come from the northern PA and NY regions of the Appalachians (Think Scranton). Readily available, easily accessible, and plenty of transportation networks available for shipping.
But guess what? Those stones also sit directly atop the Marcellus Shale reserves, and if you've been following the news then you know that these reserves are now being tapped into at incredible rates as an energy source. I won't get into the politics behind it, but PA's governor has opened it up and it's basically the wild west as far as energy harvesting goes. What does this mean (in addition to the devastation of some really wonderful pristine native woodlands and some major water pollution issues) as far as hardscaping goes?
1. Big Oil is buying up any land it can for claims, and this means many of the smaller quarries are selling or remaining inactive and get paid by the oil co's to do so.
2. The larger quarries that aren't selling out are losing a significant portion of their labor force as Big Oil wages are blowing the wage scale out of the water.
Add these two things up and you get a significant shortage of materials and higher pricing on what is available.
I spoke with my supplier, and he was telling me that supply of new materials has slowed down considerably. Materials that have always been the bread of butter of availability are suddenly drying up and prices are climbing steadily. Already about a 10 percent increase over the past year, and he expects more increases and less availability very soon.
I don't know if this will affect everyone across the US, but here on the East Coast it's already the reality.
I’m not trying to scare people off from that flagstone project you may be considering. It’s still available, perhaps with a few more delays than in the past, and still affordable compared to other types of stone. But don’t be surprised if you notice that a project price may be higher than you were expecting, or even more than the same project you priced out a year or two ago.