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Ohio’s energy industry primed to drive growth

By Dan Brouillette

U.S. Secretary of Energy

In 1788, the same year as the ratification of the Constitution, settlers with the Ohio Company made their way into southeastern Ohio. The men and women who first crossed the Appalachian Mountains were pioneers, yes, but they were also the leading innovators of their day. Their skills extended to navigation, engineering and the agricultural sciences, all critical to establishing a successful outpost in the Northwest Territory.

Fast forward 230 years, and Ohio is the same incubator of innovation it has been since its very beginning. Today, it is the energy industry that provides Ohio’s latest innovative economic boost.

Due to abundant gas formations of Appalachia, Ohio reaped incredible benefits from the shale revolution. In 2019, the Buckeye State produced 30 times more natural gas than in 2012, making Ohio our nation’s fifth largest gas producer. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ohio’s energy renaissance created 114,500 jobs and accounted for $5.8 billion in labor income.

The exciting news for Ohioans is that the state has only scratched the surface of its energy and economic potential. Because of the region’s natural resources, Ohio, and the larger Appalachian region, stand on the cusp of a second energy renaissance.

In addition to continued growth in natural gas production and oil refining, Ohio has tremendous opportunities in the petrochemical industry and downstream manufacturing sector. The Trump Administration, including the Department of Energy, is committed to ensuring that Ohio and the surrounding region reap the benefits of its natural resources to create jobs and economic prosperity.

Petrochemicals, the byproducts of petroleum and natural gas, are used to make the things we require for modern, everyday life like plastics, pharmaceuticals and even clothing. The importance of these products and Appalachia’s resources make this industry primed for growth in Ohio and the larger region.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Ohio’s natural gas production is expected to increase through the year 2050 and beyond. That sustained growth makes Ohio attractive for private-sector investment in the petrochemical industry. Already a world-class petrochemical processing facility is under construction outside Pittsburgh, and there are plans to bring a second petrochemical processing plant to Belmont County. This facility could create as many as 6,000 jobs during the construction phase and an additional 600 operational jobs once the facility comes online. And according to the American Chemistry Council, regional opportunity in the petrochemical sector could result in an economic expansion of $28 billion per year and result in the creation of over 100,000 jobs.

When used in connection with petrochemicals, “downstream” manufacturing refers to the industries that make the items derived from petrochemical products, like car parts and medical devices. As businesses seek to meet the demand for these high-value articles, Eastern Ohio, with its petrochemical processing capabilities and low-cost energy, will be an ideal location for future facilities to design and manufacture them. These new manufacturing operations will diversify Appalachia’s economy, creating jobs and prosperity for a region hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

So, Ohio’s future energy economy opportunities go together. First, in the production of natural gas and the processing of petrochemicals. And second, in the creation and manufacturing of the items derived from those petrochemicals.

The Trump administration laid the foundation to realize the promise of this second energy renaissance by enacting a pro-growth tax and regulatory business environment. Moving forward, the federal government must continue to invest in public infrastructure like upgrading roads and railways and developing Appalachian broadband internet.

DOE will do its part to advance Appalachian prosperity by partnering with the Appalachian Regional Commission on workforce development so that the region’s workers are trained to fill future jobs. And we will continue to fund research and development that produces innovative energy technologies that can be commercialized by private industry to ensure a place for petrochemical production and downstream manufacturing in Ohio’s future.

Innovation is the story of Ohio’s past, and it holds the key to its future. President Trump and the DOE are committed to supporting the region’s energy industry so that Ohio continues to drive innovation and deliver the benefits of its natural resources to the American people.

Dan Brouillette is secretary of the the U.S. Department of

Energy

columns@tribtoday.com

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