Ohio produced natural gas is essential to economic and environmental progress

September 30, 2020

CRAIN’S CLEVELAND– In a state as big and diverse as Ohio, it’s easy to focus on our differences. As the political season intensifies, advertising will seek to magnify those differences even more.They want us to think: What could a family in Cuyahoga County possibly have in common with a family in Monroe County, down along the Ohio and West Virginia border?

The truth is, quite a lot.

As a natural gas and oil producer operating in Southeast Ohio, I have seen firsthand the positive benefits the industry has had on families across the state. From the compressed natural gas (CNG) cleanly fueling RTA buses, the natural gas-produced fertilizers used to grow our food, or the reliable electricity generated with the clean fuel, all Ohioans are sharing in the benefits of our state’s local natural gas development.

If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that Ohioans may not always recognize the many ways that natural gas and oil benefits our lives, but we would absolutely notice if it were gone.

For starters, natural gas keeps electricity prices and emissions low. When used in power generation, natural gas is clean burning and highly efficient, and thanks to its abundance here in Ohio, it’s a much more affordable fuel source. Those key benefits are why we’ve seen the percentage of power generation plants using natural gas rising considerably in recent years, from just 3% in Ohio a decade ago to more than 40% today.

The use of local, abundant and affordable natural gas in power generation has saved Ohio families $45 billion in home energy bills since 2009, according to an analysis commissioned by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program and ShaleCrescent USA. With those savings, Cuyahoga County families are able to keep more of their hard-earned money for essentials like food, prescriptions and housing.

If consumers statewide enjoy the savings tied to local natural gas production, downtown Cleveland has seen the economic and environmental benefits of Ohio natural gas and oil production firsthand.

Cleveland Thermal, the company whose steam heat has warmed residential, commercial and government buildings in downtown Cleveland for more than a century, switched from Kentucky coal to shale gas supplied right here in Ohio back in 2017. The company’s president said the move reduced Cleveland Thermal’s carbon dioxide emissions by 84% — the equivalent of planting a dense 19,000-acre forest.

And, the RTA bus fleet crisscrossing the city now runs primarily on clean, Ohio produced natural gas. The public transit agency has invested millions of dollars in CNG fueled buses, as the new fleet of vehicles is more cost-effective to operate, maintain and significantly reduces air emissions, contributing to cleaner air quality on downtown streets.

Even after realizing more than $83 billion in total investment tied to shale gas development in the state since 2010, according to Cleveland State University economists, we remain in the very early days of fully realizing the opportunity that Ohio-produced natural gas and oil delivers.

Advanced, modern day manufacturing — a staple of Cleveland’s economy — is on the rise, as our energy infrastructure network is modernized and expanded, connecting the consumers and businesses thirsting for energy with our abundant supply. A new pipeline just completed is moving natural gas to Ashtabula County, an area where previous natural gas supply constraints had held back economic development.

The director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, Greg Myers, said 10 to 15 new local projects are taking root or expanding in the area, and he cites the pipeline as the cause. “Without [the pipeline], we wouldn’t be talking about any additional development projects that required sizable volumes of natural gas,” Myers told the Star Beacon.

This story of the essential nature of Ohio-produced natural gas and oil is one told in communities across the state. Although we may not always recognize its significance or understand its benefits, Ohio’s natural gas and oil plays a critical role in powering every Ohio family’s life.

Hill is chairman of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program and president of David R. Hill, Inc., an Ohio-based exploration and production company.

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