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What will we do with 2012?

January 25, 2012
James Pirko - Community Columnist ( , Tribune Chronicle |

Congratulations to all survivors of 2011. It was not easy, but remember the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Considering what our region has endured during the past four decades, we must be very strong.

Resilience is a quality that Congressman Tim Ryan attributed to the people of the Mahoning Valley during a presentation to our Regional Chamber of Commerce. Instead of breaking and shattering, the resilient adapt like a piece of steel being worked by a blacksmith, absorbing the energy that changes and strengthens it.

Prizefighters call it "rolling with the punches." By moving in the right direction, a fighter repositions to strike back. Our region is now positioned for a comeback in 2012, if we make the right moves. Any successful fighter knows that the key to winning is preparation with disciplined training.

Those who have prepared themselves with the needed job skills training will take the highly paid industrial jobs that are now emerging here. If our people are not prepared, they will miss out, and companies will have to bring skilled workers from out-of-state.

At the Youngstown Ohio Utica Natural Gas expo hosted by our Regional Chamber, I saw representatives offering training for these new jobs, including YSU, ETI College, New Castle School of Trades and Eastern Gateway Community College. There also were displays from dozens of companies offering the variety of materials and services needed for this emerging industry.

Our region has energy that our nation and the world desperately needs, buried under solid rock.

We have the technology to convert our nation's vehicle fleet to run on compressed or liquefied natural gas. Start with closed-loop transportation systems, where the vehicles make their rounds then return to a central facility for refueling. This includes bus fleets, municipal vehicles and businesses that keep their trucks and cars within a fuel tank's radius. The savings will add up quickly, because 1000 cubic feet of natural gas (costing about $3 wholesale) produces the energy of 7.46 gallons of diesel fuel.

The U.S. Postal Service has about 220,000 vehicles, burning petroleum at about $100 per barrel. Its operating expenses and postage rates jump with every increase in oil prices. In order to save money, it plans to close most of its Area Mail Processing facilities, including ours in Youngstown, thus slowing its next-day delivery to 2 or 3 (or more) days. Instead, it should save the money it needs by converting its entire fleet to use natural gas.

This gas industry has environmental engineering issues to be resolved. I felt the New Year's Eve 4.5 earthquake, and the prevailing theory is that it was not caused by the hydraulic fracking of any gas well, but by the disposal of contaminated backflow fluids into injection wells. The news has been reported that, under the direction of Gov. John Kasich, a ban has been issued to cease all injection well operations happening within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown injection well.

Injection wells may soon be rendered obsolete by new surface-based treatment technologies. In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report on Cost Effective Recovery of Low-TDS Frac Flowback Water for Re-use. GE Global Research and the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va., conducted this research between October 1, 2009, and March 31, 2011.

Patriot Water, with the Warren City Waste Water Treatment Plant, has been treating hydrofracking backflow water. This is an example of how, throughout our region, our local governments have more public officials who are looking for new solutions and taking action on new opportunities. We are replacing the politics of the past, which were once characterized by the media as run by "buffoons and hooligans."

We cannot afford a return to the old ways of business as usual. Instead, we must continue progressing to build on our strengths into 2012.

Pirko is a Weathersfield resident. Email him at



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