Appalachian Basin

2012 Candidate Archive: Ohio Energy Production: A Return to American Exceptionalism

*Editor’s note: This column was originally posted on 12/20/2011

According to most experts, part of the world’s largest deposit of natural gas lies right beneath our feet here in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio. It’s comprised of the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale, and it has the potential of bringing a tremendous economic lift for our area. Exploration of this expansive natural resource is a game changer for Ohio, not only for energy development and independence but for job creation. A recent study found that more than 200,000 jobs are expected to come to Ohio in the future as a result of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. If that’s not the path to economic prosperity, I don’t know what is.

But, the direct job opportunities derived from natural gas development aren’t isolated to simply harvesting the resource. They also include housing, retail, entertainment, and other manufacturing and service sector support functions necessary to sustain the industry. This is a new, emerging chapter in the type of American innovation and exceptionalism that has defined America’s national character. I remember another such era in America’s history … I bet many of you will remember it, too.

It was called the “Space Race,” and it began in the early 1960s. President John F. Kennedy made it America’s national vision to land a man on the moon in ten years. It was an ambitious mission that gave our nation focus, and fostered an ‘all in’ camaraderie that we are sorely lacking today. The mission engaged our academic community, the business community, our political leaders on both sides of the aisle, government agencies, and even our military. Imagine that! Government agencies working with the private sector, rather than against it. And, it didn’t take ten years. Neil Armstrong took that “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” in seven years. It was American exceptionalism at work.

We have the opportunity to see that kind of national excitement again. Because, much like the Space Race, we are on the cusp of new energy innovations and opportunities with the development of natural gas and oil in the Marcellus and Utica Shales. But to capitalize, we must keep federal government agencies like the EPA and the Department of the Interior from blocking critical progress.

With any major growth and development, there are challenges that must be met and decisions to be made to protect the public good. It is critically important that the big energy companies that have already set up shop in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio as well, as those on the way, put Ohio back to work – jobs for Ohioans, filled by Ohioans. It’s also important that Ohioans who choose to lease their land are treated fairly, with their rights protected by law. These are some of my priorities.

Our state and our nation stand at a crossroads. History has shown that when the American innovative spirit is free from the chains of big government, all hard-working Americans prosper. In contrast, more government, more job-killing regulations, and higher taxes stifle the American spirit – and result in the persistently high unemployment and economic uncertainty we’re witnessing now.

I believe we must rediscover our belief in American exceptionalism. We can do it around a national vision of energy independence and security. Eastern and Southeastern Ohio have been blessed with these resources and we can play a major role in revitalizing America’s economic engine by capitalizing on the opportunities from the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Because, after all, this is America and we Americans can do anything – history tells the world this is true.

Bill Johnson represents the 6th Congressional District in Ohio.

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