Eastern Ohio — home to many depressed communities and unemployed residents — is becoming a boom area thanks to a rock formation called the Utica Shale.
The Utica Shale lies far below the surface under parts of eight states. Geologists believe that it may contain huge reserves of natural gas and oil and that one of the best areas to get at the resources is eastern Ohio. Big oil companies are moving into the area, buying lease rights and getting ready to drill in earnest. Today one of those companies, Chesapeake Energy Corp., said that initial wells in the Utica Shale showed strong production, which has heightened the interest even more.
Because the Utica Shale is so far below the surface, the companies use deep and horizontal drilling technology and then apply a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to free the resources from the shale. Environmentalists argue that fracking poses undue risk of groundwater contamination, but the oil companies contend the process is not dangerous and has been used safely for years.
For the citizens of eastern Ohio, the Utica Shale find is an economic godsend. The sale of lease rights are making landowners wealthy, oil companies are setting up shop in the area, and the eventual extraction of the natural resources will produce a host of new construction and long-term blue collar and white collar jobs. The state will want to ensure that the wells are operated safely, of course, but the impetus to develop the resources and bring jobs to the area seems irresistible.
It’s hard not to contrast the Utica Shale boom with the government effort to spur green energy. Oil and gas companies are spending billions of dollars to get at natural resources that have proven value and can be obtained using established technology. They have moved rapidly to identify the potential resources, obtain drilling rights, and erect rigs and start work. And this burgeoning economic activity has not required costly government subsidies, slow-moving government bureaucracies, or politicized, heavily lobbied programs that advantage one manufacturer over another.
This textbook lesson in the speed, nimbleness, and efficiency of capitalism will create new wealth and lots of new jobs in Ohio that cannot be moved overseas. All of which should lead everyone to ask: if we want to immediately create jobs here in America, why isn’t the government making sure there are no unnecessary barriers to the development of our other existing natural resources?