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"If you’re not at the table, you’re part of the menu,” Dale Arnold of the Ohio Farm Bureau told dozens of community, business and economic development leaders on Jan. 5.
The event was the most recent Coffee & Commerce informational session hosted by the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce.
As director for energy, utility and local government policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Arnold discussed the interplay of energy and agriculture with local government policy.
Given the decades-long cycle of energy commodities, including natural gas and oil, businesses must be always thinking toward the future, Arnold said.
“A 30-year time block is considered immediate,” he said. “Standing on the side and not being involved is not an option.”
In years past, folks scoffed at expert claims that one day hydraulic fracturing and wind and solar generated electricity would occupy a prominent position in discussions of viable energy sources.
“That’s never going to happen,” Arnold said was the critics’ response at the time. “Well, it’s here.”
He likened market trends for crude oil, natural gas and the generation of electricity when charted, to the appearance of a “roller coaster.”
“I’ve got one word: volatility,” Arnold said.
For businesses to survive they must possess the means to adapt to a changing energy climate. They must adopt a team approach in which several different fuel courses are used. In other words, they must create a diversified energy portfolio.
“There is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to energy,” he said. “But there’s a lot of silver buckshot.”
For businesses, cutting energy costs can take the form of software deployment, lighting technology revisions, HVAC upgrades and additional insulation and sealing.
When considering the length of time required for the realization of energy projects, Arnold suggested a look at the construction of the interstate highway system. From conception through design and construction, the process spanned decades.
“We must start to talk about those [energy projects] now,” he said.
Among those pending energy projects are solar farms planned in a dozen counties, two within a 30-minute drive from Cambridge.
A power plant is in the works south of Meadowbrook High School. Horizontal drilling techniques are being applied to tapping oil reserves other than those in shale deposits. Statewide $4.5 billion in electrical service upgrades are under way.
Several pipelines — according to Arnold the safest and most cost effective means to transmit oil and natural gas — are planned in the Buckeye State.
An ethane cracker plant is pending in Belmont County.
Geologist David Hill also addressed attendees, updating them on the latest trends in natural gas and oil developments.
At the peak in the fall of 2014 about 1,600 drilling rigs were active in the United States. OPEC, viewing American oil as a threat, dropped prices, and the number of active drilling operations fell substantially.
At one time 22 rigs operated in Guernsey County. Currently, only nine are active. But that condition is slowly reversing.
“The good news is it’s on the upswing,” Hill said.
However, the cost of a barrel of crude oil must reach about $75 before there will be a “dramatic uptick in drilling.”
The PTT Global Chemical cracker plant, if approved, will provide a tremendous economic boost for the area, including Guernsey County. About 5,000 construction jobs would be created, as well as 500 permanent jobs.
A decision regarding the Belmont County plant is expected within the next few weeks.
“The future’s bright for eastern Ohio,” Hill said.
The Southgate Hotel hosted the event. Denny’s provided breakfast for attendees free of charge.