By Marc Kovac
Ohio’s oil and natural-gas industries and the emergence of horizontal hydraulic fracturing could create more than 200,000 jobs and pump billions into the state economy over the next five years, according to a new study released at the Statehouse.
“[These] resources will be responsibly developed, and doing so will benefit all Ohioans who are looking for economic opportunity and energy security,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
The economic-impact study, released Tuesday, was prepared by a Cleveland-based consulting firm on behalf of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.
High-volume horizontal fracturing, commonly called fracking, is an emerging method of extracting oil and gas by pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into underground shale formations.
Opponents have called for a moratorium on the practice until a federal study is completed on the potential effects. Democrat lawmakers at the Statehouse also have called for increased regulation of the industry.
But proponents of the method say fracturing has been in use in the state for decades without adverse environmental impacts, and updated drilling laws and regulations already in effect will ensure comparable results with new wells.
Additionally, they say the growing use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas from deep, underground shale formations in much of eastern and southeastern parts of the state will lead to more jobs and economic growth.
The study backs that assertion, projecting that more than 204,000 jobs will be created as a result of the exploration of Ohio’s Utica shale reserve by 2015. Additionally, the industry will add $22 billion into the economy and $12 billion in related employee wages.
“We’re thinking, four years out, if we follow the model of Pennsylvania, it’ll be $14 billion a year in drilling and [well] completion expenses alone,” said Jerry James, president of Artex Oil Co. in Marietta.
“Fourteen billion dollars a year could generate a lot of jobs, [with] a total of $35 billion estimated in a five-year period.”
He added later, “If this works, this could be the biggest game-changer for people we know, because we’re from southeastern Ohio, and southeastern Ohio wants one thing. It wants good jobs. If this works, it could create a lot of economic activity.”