COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A study led by an Ohio State University professor predicts oil and natural gas drilling in Ohio will create far fewer jobs than the estimated 200,000 the industry has forecast.
The report released Thursday by economics professor Mark Partridge and his team expects 20,000 jobs to be generated by the development of energy now locked in rock deep beneath eastern Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Those jobs would be created directly and indirectly from drilling.
"We need to be setting realistic expectations," said Partridge, who specializes in urban and rural development.
A study backed by the oil and gas industry has predicted that more than 4,600 jobs would be created this year in positions tied directly and indirectly to the industry. That number would rise to more than 200,000 jobs and lead to $14 billion worth of investment over the next four years, according to the study conducted by a Cleveland research firm.
The executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program defended the industry study. Rhonda Reda said it was based on "confidential data from the industry, taking a look at their five-year business plan."
The industry study anticipates that drillers will have 20 wells completed in the Utica shale in the eastern and central part of the state this year, increasing to about 1,500 wells completed in 2015. Hiring will increase over the next three to five years, Reda said.
Partridge said there is plenty to like about Ohio's natural gas finds, especially because of how cheap gas is for consumers and because it is cleaner to burn than coal. But he says energy booms "are often associated with negative outcomes."
Partridge's report says the industry study made unrealistic assumptions about the percentage of spending and hiring that would remain in Ohio once the drilling and systems for collecting the gas are complete and ignored costs that a drilling boom could have on other sectors. Those costs included the potential for displacing coal miners and causing environmental damage that could hurt tourism and other activities and communities' costs for expenses such as maintaining roads, Partridge said.
Gov. John Kasich has said the discovery of gas and oil in eastern Ohio can transform its economy, leading to new jobs and other benefits.
Either projection of job numbers - the industry's or Ohio State's - would mean tens of thousands of jobs for families living in an area "that's starving for good economic news," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.