By Linda Waggon
Special to The Vindicator
The first oil well in Ohio was drilled in Washington County in 1860. Standard Oil, the famous oil company owned by John D. Rockefeller, was founded in Cleveland in 1870. Between 1895 and 1903, Ohio produced more oil than any other state in the country.
Natural gas was plentiful in western Ohio. The first commercial natural gas well was drilled in Findlay, Ohio, in 1884, leading the population to quadruple. By 1888, Edward Libbey was moving his company from Boston to Toledo to take advantage of the abundant and inexpensive gas to power his glass furnaces.
This era saw the birth of companies with names such as Goodyear, Sherwin-Williams, and Owens Corning. Production of iron and steel in the Buckeye State was second only to Pennsylvania. Ingenuity and hard work played a major role in the growth and success of Ohio’s economy, but it was also fueled by affordable energy.
The proximity to these energy sources helped propel Ohio’s population and economic growth, making it a manufacturing powerhouse and a leader on the national economic stage.
Today, Ohio once again has the opportunity to become an economic power, creating the jobs and economic revitalization that goes along with having reliable, more affordable energy. And once again, the solution lies right beneath our feet in the vast domestic shale formations that hold immense reserves of oil and natural gas.
While we have known about the tremendous volumes of shale energy for decades, we didn’t know how to economically recover it. Now, thanks to the spirit of American innovation, a safe and environmentally sustainable way to produce our shale resources has been developed. The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has made oil and gas production from shale a reality that is changing the face of our energy future.
The good news is that in Ohio, policies and actions are already encouraging and supporting shale energy development, opening access to new lands and adopting stringent regulatory controls to address potential environmental and public health and safety concerns. As a result, shale energy is expected to contribute 65,000 jobs, with an average salary of $50,225 per job, and more than $4.8 billion to Ohio’s economy by 2014. Nationally, shale energy contributed 600,000 jobs and more than $76 billion to U.S. GDP in 2010 alone.
Here in Ohio, evidence of the potential for this shale-driven economic engine abound. The domestic steel industry, particularly in Youngstown, Canton and the Mahoning Valley, is enjoying its first growth boom since the 1980s, driven largely by the demands of oil and gas producers who need pipe, drilling platforms, heavy equipment and specialty tools. Last year shale development helped to create 2,275 new Ohio jobs and increased Ohio’s gross domestic product by $162 million. And that growth is, in turn, causing an increase in consumer confidence — people are buying cars again, which further increases the demand for steel and increases employment in Ohio.
In Stuebenville, advances in shale gas production have positively impacted the town’s sky-high unemployment rate, which hit 15 percent last year. As ABC News noted in a recent segment, 300 shale-related jobs have already come to the Stuebenville area and 10,000 more are expected in the next three years.
Modest estimations indicate that by 2014, more than 1,500 jobs for engineers and architects and 1,000 environmental compliance positions will be added in Ohio, along with 1,800 office workers and nearly 500 technical consultants. Another nearly 11,000 Ohio construction jobs with an average salary of $48,000 could be created from construction of new manufacturing facilities and other non-residential structures, including natural gas infrastructure, as well as pipelines, roads and bridges.
The timing for moving toward greater U.S. energy security could not be better. Globally, political risks are increasing, and developing countries are demanding larger shares of available energy resources, which will impact the cost and availability of these resources. Production of domestic shale energy has already reduced the amount of energy we import.
For the first time in more than 100 years, Ohio has the chance to once again be a leader in the production of oil and gas. Shale energy provides the state a unique opportunity to build on its history to ensure a strong economic future, ensuring more affordable energy while helping to increase our nation’s energy security.
Woggon is executive director of the Ohio Shale Coalition and executive vice president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.