Appalachian Basin

Above the Fray: Ohio’s Gubernatorial Candidates Set Tone With Mutual Support for Natural Gas Development

With just over a month to go before election day, the campaign season is in full swing. And with political, partisan rhetoric as colorful as any fall foliage you can find in Ohio inundating every electronic device known to man, only one issue has remained above the fray: the state’s development of its natural gas and oil resources.

As EID has reported, both candidates at the top of ticket – current Ohio Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike DeWine and Democratic nominee Richard Cordray – have been vocal in their support of Ohio’s natural gas development throughout their campaigns. As election day draws closer, neither have wavered in their support for an industry that is reviving the state’s economy, providing much needed funding for school districts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and rejuvenating the manufacturing industry — including the return of steel to the region.

Political messaging in the final weeks of an election cycle is usually reserved for issues that draw contrast between two candidates, or more colorful, controversial issues – not topics that candidates agree on. Yet the question of Ohio’s energy is an important one, as it is clearly tied to the economic fate of the state. As such, it remains a key talking point for candidates on both sides of the aisle. Attorney General DeWine even dedicated a large portion of his opening statement in this week’s gubernatorial debate touting the benefits of Ohio’s natural gas development:

“I’m excited about the future of the state of Ohio. I’m particularly excited about southeast Ohio – a lot’s happened in the last eight years. Unemployment eight years ago was double what it is today in southeast Ohio, and now we have the shale play, which has amazing potential for so many counties in this part of the state. Great opportunities for businesses to come to Ohio because Ohio will have the cheapest natural gas in the entire world….It’s important for us those of us in government that we do the right things to make sure this goes forward. Jon Husted and I have a plan.”

The debate was held at Marietta College (one of the nation’s top schools for petroleum engineering), located in an area that’s had a front-row seat to the economic transformation the oil and gas industry has spurred in the region. So it was no surprise that a question came from the audience regarding natural gas development. Halfway through the hour-long program, Rebecca Clutter of Medina asked both candidates to explain how they are planning to take advantage of the state’s shale resources:

“Ohio is in the heart of natural gas territory. What are your plans for involving natural gas production, and how does natural gas production play a role in your job creation plan for Ohioans?” (33:40)

Both candidates answered Ms. Clutter’s question without a hint of disagreement, and noted the economic benefits continued development of eastern Ohio’s shale formations will have on businesses outside of the oil and gas industry.

DeWine was the first to respond:

“Natural gas is one of the great things that’s occurring now in the state of Ohio. We have to take care of the environment, at the same [time] though we have to make sure that this is a friendly place for companies to come in the sense that they can expand. If you look at the future of southeast Ohio, it is to me very, very exciting…In regard to the shale play that is occurring, we will have the cheapest natural gas in the world – in the world. And so why is that important? Well it’s important to us as consumers, but it’s also very import because companies already here will have cheap natural gas, and this will entice others…(and gives Ohio) very great advantage to other states, so we will get more jobs that come in here.”

In his response, Cordray noted natural gas development is leading the way in Ohio’s push for clean energy, and said he hopes to see an increase in production in the years to come:

“Natural gas is one of the clean energy sources that we can push forward with much better than some of the other things that we can do, and it is winning in the marketplace now. We need to fire up more energy production in Ohio, and I’m in an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy.”

As we’ve seen in other major oil and natural gas producing states like Colorado, the safe, responsible development of our geological gifts in shale formations is an issue that has generated bipartisan support throughout the country. Despite repeated attempts (and failures) from those who oppose oil and natural gas to make the issue a partisan one, a vast majority of candidates and, more importantly, voters have largely rejected the efforts of the few who have embraced the “Keep It In the Ground” agenda (see: Dennis Kucinich).

With the United States continuing to rise as a global energy power and continuing to move closer to attaining the energy security sought by both parties since the Nixon administration, voters continue to show support for American oil and natural gas development at the ballot box.

After a decade of shale development in the U.S., voters – and the public in general – have become more educated on the practices and process involved in energy development. As a result, scare tactics by fringe activist groups have far less of an impact than ever before. The science – and collective experience of those living in developing regions – has shown production of America’s natural gas and oil resources can be done safely and effectively. That’s why the issue has generated the support it enjoys today – and why both parties are embracing fracking.

Bipartisan support is a hard thing to accomplish in today’s political climate, even more so in October of an election year. Yet even now, at the peak of “mud-slinging” season, the “issue” of energy development has remained above the fray in Ohio.

This support should put those with aspirations for the 2020 election on notice – with its remarkably diverse electorate, Ohio still remains the “King-of-Swing” when it comes to bellwether states. The old adage “as goes Ohio, so goes the nation” rings true with election experts and political pundits, as there is no better sample of country’s ever-changing political landscape than the Buckeye state. Given what the candidates are saying, and what the voters are demonstrating at the ballot box, support for the nation’s oil and natural gas development will continue to have the support of the American people.

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