In my last column, I discussed the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing and stated that I felt the benefits outweigh the risks. What exactly are those benefits?
First, our country's dependence on foreign oil will be lessened by increased domestic energy production, and we will see lower energy costs. Natural gas burns cleaner than other forms of fossil fuels and can also be used to produce electricity more cheaply and with fewer emissions than coal.
For those of us who live in the areas where drilling is occurring, there are other economic benefits. Through 2012, almost 39,000 jobs in Ohio were supported by shale development and local and state governments were provided with more than $900 million in revenue. Shale energy development added over $4.1 billion to Ohio's gross state product as well as $2.5 billion in labor income in 2012.
What are the benefits here in Trumbull County? BP alone has leased 80,000 acres and paid out about $200 million in signing bonuses in our county. Some of these property owners will receive royalties, which will help our local economy. Landowners of the Ohio Valley, the group that negotiated the leasing rights between BP and the property owners, paid to have property records scanned and digitized, a task that would have cost the county about $250,000.
The greatest benefit is the creation of jobs in an area that sorely needs them. The shale industry is a job multiplier. The jobs are not just directly in the drilling of wells, but also in other areas.
Last month, I attended an Energy Career Fair in Boardman sponsored by the Regional Chamber. Representatives from V & M Star said engineers, accountants, welders and electronic technicians are needed. At the career fair, there were about 30 energy industry related companies and educational institutions represented
Some have complained that many of these jobs are going to people from out of state. One of the reasons the career fair was organized was to try to connect local people with companies. I heard over and over again at the career fair that there is a shortage of skilled tradesman, especially machinists. The good news is we have some great training programs locally.
One of the complaints I've heard from those opposed to fracking locally is that our benefits will be short lived. While parts of this industry will be somewhat transient, many of the benefits can be more permanent. BP has established a headquarters in North Jackson. Curtis Thomas, the Director of Government and Public Affairs for Ohio, is based there and has moved his family here. BP has also donated $50,000 to the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
Wells have the potential to produce royalties for decades which will continue to benefit our local economy. Some of those property owners include local governments and schools.
Something else to consider is many of the skilled trades are not just needed in the oil and gas industry. The people getting trained now in those trades specifically for these energy industry jobs will have a skill that will serve them their whole career whether or not they stay in the gas and oil industry.
The gas and oil industry may not be the complete economic salvation for our area. It can be, however, part of the path to prosperity for Trumbull County.
Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.