April 09, 2012
Lower energy prices. That's what many folks first think when they hear about expanded oil and natural gas production in Ohio.
And they are right. Washington can't repeal the laws of supply and demand. With more supply that is more reliable, it will help keep prices down.
But lower prices aren't the only benefit the American people will reap by developing secure, reliable and affordable domestic energy. Expanded domestic production will also create jobs and lower costs for manufacturers.
We're already seeing the job-creating potential of expanded production across Ohio as a result of the shale plays in the eastern part of our state, called the Marcellus and Utica Shale.
In recent decades, through hard work, risk-taking and investment, the private sector has developed techniques which make it possible and economical to recover this type of oil and gas that's deep underground.
At a time when there are 443,000 unemployed Ohioans, energy production is set to create thousands of jobs, from the drill sites down the supply chains, across many sectors of our economy. A study from university researchers found that the Utica Shale alone created more than 2,000 jobs in 2011 and is on track to create another 12,000 jobs in 2012.
These tens of thousands of jobs are just the beginning. One industry study says that more than 200,000 Ohio jobs will be created and supported by 2015 as a result of Utica Shale exploration in Ohio.
One sector that's benefitting is manufacturing. Ohio's manufacturers make a lot of the pipes and pumps and other materials used in energy production. The steel companies in northeast Ohio are expanding in order to keep up with pipe orders from the oil and gas industry.
I saw this earlier this week when I toured U.S. Steel's new $100 million pipe facility in Lorain, which has created more than 100 full-time jobs, and about 150 temporary construction jobs. Good-paying jobs with good benefits are being created left and right not only at U.S. Steel but at other steel companies throughout northeast Ohio, in Lorain, Cleveland, Youngstown and Brookfield.
The ripple effects are substantial. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, each job in the steel industry creates seven other jobs.
Having spent a lot of time in eastern Ohio earlier this year, from the Mahoning Valley south to Bellaire and west to Cambridge, I've seen some of the benefits to families in areas of our state that have been hard hit and have had high unemployment for decades. Good jobs are returning, allowing young people to stay and raise their families with not just a good wage but real hope for the future.
There's another angle to the shale story. Thirty percent of energy consumption in this country is by industrial users. With the shale plays, we have the potential to stabilize the cost of doing business for manufacturing across the state, and help prevent some of the wild price spikes we saw with natural gas in the past.
This will lead to a better bottom line for manufacturers, giving them more resources to grow and hire. It will attract more businesses to the state, like plastics, chemicals and other industries.
It will also increase the competitiveness of manufacturers, bringing down what the National Association of Manufacturers has identified as a 20 percent premium to do business here in the U.S. With low, stable energy costs, more manufacturers may bring production back from China and other foreign countries, as we've recently begun to see.
Some are concerned about the safety of increased oil and gas production here in Ohio. We do need to be sure that appropriate regulations are in place to protect the environment, and that can be done. We sometimes forget that we've been drilling for oil since the 1860s in Ohio and safely employing hydraulic fracturing for more than a half-century. Lima, Ohio was the oil capital of the world in the 1890s.
Ohio is ahead of some other states in providing a proper regulatory framework, and in my view has done a good job ensuring that these drilling technologies are being used properly. We need to continue to ensure Ohio rules are working to protect our communities, but we also have to be sure new, one-size-fits-all Washington rules aren't imposed on Ohio that could stop this exciting potential for new jobs and a stronger Ohio economy before it can really get started.Let's use our resources wisely to cut our dependency on foreign energy from dangerous and volatile parts of the world, increase supply and lower energy prices, and add thousands of good-paying jobs in areas of our state that need them badly.