The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released a report, which explains what would happen if fracking were to be banned in Ohio and across the nation – and the results are not pretty. The report found that Ohio would lose 397,000 (predominantly union) jobs, $33 billion in GDP, and Ohio households would be hit with an extra $3,956 per year in cost-of-living expenses.
Ohioans have a lot to lose with a ban on fracking, so it’s really no surprise that they made their voices heard at the polls. In Youngstown, for example, voters rejected an anti-fracking ballot measure for the sixth time in a row on Election Day. Not only that, but due to a Democratic platform that threatens to reject fossil fuel development, Ohio’s union households voted Republican in the presidential election by a margin of 52 percent, a major shift from 2012 when 37 percent voted Republican. In other words, Ohioans voted overwhelming for energy production and all the benefits that come with it.
One area of production that will bring some of those benefits is infrastructure. The building trades are anxiously awaiting their opportunity for the thousands of jobs tied to $8 billion in pipelines and $7.8 billion in natural gas fired power plants that are under construction or currently pending approval. Not only will these pipelines and natural gas power plants create jobs, they’ll also provide millions in tax revenues that are slated to go to our schools.
Elected officials in Harrison County have said there are already millions in tax revenues coming in from these projects, but the real boon to the economy is just getting started. Fracking has led to a surge in critical energy infrastructure—pipelines, natural gas compressor stations, and power plants—which are in the works all over the state, and in turn will revitalize the entire state’s economy.
That’s not all, Ohio has a once-in-lifetime opportunity to really bring our manufacturing back, and to do that we must continue to develop Utica Shale. Only a few years ago, the United States watched manufacturing jobs get shipped overseas. In fact, some of the hardest hit areas were in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, leaving the tristate, typically defined as the “Rust Belt,” suffering economically. When fracking came to the Marcellus and Utica shales, everything changed. Within a few short years, vacant plants along the Ohio River were given new life and thousands of new jobs were created. To date, there is a direct correlation with the uptick in manufacturing jobs, and oil and natural gas production. However, we would expect the number of manufacturing jobs to increase much faster once pipelines and infrastructure are built out—something that we are still waiting on in Ohio. The fact is that even though we have been drilling Utica Shale wells for almost 8 years, we are still in the infancy of what this development can actually yield for the Buckeye State. In short, natural gas development must happen if we want to see our manufacturing jobs come back.
Another key fact is that Ohio has lost 10,000MW of electricity due to closed coal-fired power plants, but thanks to fracking, we have billions of dollars in investments pouring into the state, replacing lost power with natural gas-fired electric, and keeping our costs low. Without oil and natural gas, developed by fracking, the manufacturing of the products we use every day and the ability to keep electricity costs low would not even be possible.
As we continue to develop Ohio’s Utica Shale, it’s important to keep in mind that doing so will unlock a multitude of other benefits as well. In short, when it comes to oil and gas development in Ohio and a manufacturing rebirth—we are just getting started! We need to embrace this opportunity and rally behind our domestic energy sources. It’s time we become energy secure and start making things in Ohio again.
Jackie Stewart is State Director of Energy In Depth - Ohio. Energy In Depth (EID) is a research, education and public outreach campaign focused on getting the facts out about the promise and potential of responsibly developing America’s onshore energy resource base – especially abundant sources of oil and natural gas from shale and other “tight” formations across the country.