Jane Van Ryan
Posted March 15, 2011
If you're following March Madness this year, you're probably aware that Ohio State is the top seed in the NCAA basketball tournament this year. Buckeye fans are thrilled, of course, and are hoping their team advances through the competition and becomes Number One in the nation.
But there's a new game in Ohio that could bring another type of success to the state. It's the search for oil and natural gas believed to exist below Ohio's surface in some untapped sandstone pockets and in the massive Utica Shale formation.
The Utica Shale is a rock formation that stretches from Ontario to Tennessee. It is larger than the Marcellus Shale and lies beneath it. In parts of Pennsylvania, it is about two miles beneath the surface, but in Ohio it rises to a depth of about 6,000 to 2,000 feet, making it a good drilling prospect. Little is known about the formation, but tests apparently have been promising. In recent months, oil and natural gas development companies have been buying up leases in several Ohio counties and conducting seismic surveys. According to published reports, one company has invested $1 billion to acquire mineral rights below about 1 million acres.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has called the possible existence of oil and natural gas deposits a "godsend." Ohio has an $8 billion deficit, and its 9.4 percent unemployment remains above the national average. Studies have shown that oil and natural gas development creates jobs, generates government revenue for much-needed services, and provides a healthy boost to the economy.
These facts are not lost on the town of Cambridge, Ohio, which is considering allowing oil drilling in its city park. Mayor Tom Orr says the poor economy is draining the town's coffers, and he cannot continue asking the taxpayers to pay more to keep the town afloat. As he told the Columbus Dispatch, "If there are other opportunities to raise revenue, we have to look at them."
Ohio's State Geologist Larry Wickstrom says the state's oil and natural gas production has been declining since 1984, but he believes several dozen new wells could be drilled by year's end. If they are successful, it's possible that Ohio's financial picture will improve markedly, along with its contribution to U.S. energy supplies.
Based on the events of the past several weeks, Ohio's oil and natural gas couldn't come at a better time for its citizens and for all Americans. The United States must develop more of its own oil and natural gas to promote U.S. energy security, create jobs, reduce the trade deficit, and to keep America running smoothly.
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