A conference that gets underway in Cleveland on Tuesday will highlight the economic potential of Ohio’s blossoming shale industry. On Monday, several of the key speakers shared their mostly favorable views of the boom on 90.3’s the Sound of Ideas. And, as ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports, a number of opponents of drilling phoned in their objections.
It’s been just a few years since the shale industry appeared on Ohio’s business horizon as something to watch. Now, its champions say it’s something to trumpet.
Iryna Lendel is an assistant director with the college of urban affairs at Cleveland State University. She says if all goes well, the continued build out of the industry will lead to economic growth for decades.
Lendel: “I think we have 30, 40, 50 years of play where we will see a renaissance of the whole state of Ohio, both on the side of oil and gas development but also on the side of support industries and manufacturing industries.”
Several academic studies have projected that shale drilling could create 65 thousand jobs in Ohio by 2014.
Jobs may be the most visible and tangible benefit, but certainly not the only one.
John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil Company. He says domestic shale energy – especially natural gas – could finally break the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
Hofmeister: “It’s this new found abundance of natural gas, which in my opinion presents the best opportunity this nation has had in 50 years to do something about the affordability of transportation fuel. Whether it’s trucking, trains, automobiles, we can use natural gas as an alternative replacement for crude oil.”
But many environmentalists say the advantages of drilling are inflated, and are outweighed by the potential risks.
Toni from Old Brooklyn called into the show and says she’s worried that the chemicals used in the drilling process pose a threat to water quality and public health. She says she fears that the drilling is changing the rural landscape of many communities.
Tony: “I’m very concerned about the organic farmers, and where can one go to ensure there won’t be fracking in that area? Let’s say we’re looking to move into the country—where are safe places that you know the fracking will not occur?”
John Hofmeister insists drilling poses little threat to ground water if done properly. He says energy companies have learned through experience the enormous costs that can come with accidents, and that it’s in their best interest to make an extra effort to avoid them.
While many environmental groups flatly oppose expanding gas and oil drilling, not all do.
Rich Cochran is the President of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.
Cochran: “What we’ve learned the hard way over the years is you accomplish a lot more by developing a shared vision rather than by divisive fighting. And and we are not going to fight any wars and turn this into a battlefield. What we’re going to do is develop a shared vision for how we can preserve those essential endowments, especially the farms.”
Cochran says his group thinks it is possible to protect the environment while the industry develops Ohio’s natural gas resources.
Exactly how to do that will be a big part of discussion at Tuesday’s shale summit.