For Release Sunday, June 16, 2013
© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group
Can it use the new shale gas drilling technology to deliver thousands of jobs, revive depressed industrial zones, spark new high-tech industries, feed state coffers – and still not mess up its countryside, imperil water supplies and possibly release dangerous amounts of methane gases?
It’s a big order, and environmental concerns remain real. But a strong cross-section of Ohio’s leadership – political (Gov. John Kasich), business investors and respected think tanks like Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs – see smart exploitation of shale reserves as key to a strong, opportunity-rich future.
By historic and geographic accident, the action is focused on northeast Ohio, anchored in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and Canton. This was an early center of U.S. steel and birthplace of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co. in the 1880s. But the economic action shifted south and west, and the area has been in or near recession since the 1950s – forever yearning for a new break.
Could shale be the answer? Just maybe. Massive reserves of so-called Utica shale – a source not just of natural gas but also liquid petroleum products that can be feedstuffs for specialized fuels and chemical manufacturing – have been discovered in this area (including a swath running east and southeast to the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders).
The claims are stupendous. Though actual start-up on wells in Ohio has been slow, the soon-to-come statewide impact could easily reach $10 billion a year, plus $500 million in tax revenue, with oil and gas field development creating 65,000 jobs with average income over $50,000 a year, according to a Cleveland State study released last year by energy expert Andrew Thomas and colleagues.