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Washington Post: Can the Shale Gas Boom Save Ohio?

Author: Steven Mufson
March 03, 2012

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Shale gas drilling could help Ohio's economy, but Steven Mufson of the Washington Post asks if fracking is worth the human and environmental cost.

The help-wanted sign is out in Canton, Ohio, for Chesapeake Energy.

The company that has led the charge in shale gas drilling is looking for truck drivers with licenses for hazardous materials, a purchasing coordinator for oil field equipment, a pipeline technician, a field safety coordinator, administrative assistants, troubleshooting electricians, a tax analyst and more.

Chesapeake is mobilizing for a massive drilling and development campaign in the state. The company has spent $2.2 billion and amassed about 800,000 acres of leases in the rich Utica shale that runs underneath eastern Ohio. It has eight rigs running and will have 20 poking holes in the ground around Election Day. It plans to install 200 miles of pipeline this year to bring its bounty to market.

"We are very excited about the Utica," Chesapeake's chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, said in a Feb. 22 conference call.

That's welcome news in Canton, where the unemployment rate peaked at 12.3 percent in January 2010 and where it was still running at 8.7 percent at the end of last year.

But shale drilling has also presented Ohioans with a dilemma. Chesapeake Energy is using the controversial combination of hydraulic fracturing and improved horizontal drilling methods to unlock vast quantities of natural gas, gas liquids and crude oil, driving down gas prices to 10-year lows. That has raised hopes for a revival of industrial and power plant uses of the gas.

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