Voters in Youngstown will vote in May on a measure that could ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the city. The technique allows energy companies to blast deep into the ground to extract heretofore inaccessible oil and gas deposits.
Ohio is often described as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” The state also has significant oil reserves. Ten years ago, when energy prices were considerably lower, it did not make sense for energy companies to take on the expense of extracting Ohio’s oil and gas deposits. With time and technology, that has changed.
Fracking is a technique in which water, sand, and chemicals are used to blast through dense stone under the Earth’s surface. Explorers can then drill horizontally to access oil and gas deposits deep underground.
Opponents of fracking argue that the technique may aggravate fault lines and contaminate water tables. Disposing of the fracking liquid is also a concern. Youngstown happens to sit on a fault line that had a tremor in 2011. Many blamed fracking.
Youngstown is located in northeastern Ohio. Generally speaking, the eastern half of the state is rich in oil and gas, so much so, in fact, that the industry is seen as possible fix for the state’s economic woes. If, however, fracking is taken out of the equation, oil and gas exploration may stop, costing the state tremendous economic opportunity.
The key may be to find some happy medium between environmental and economic concerns. Ohio has already loosened guidelines to allow for more exploration, but localities such as Youngstown have taken steps on their own to stop fracking.
With gasoline prices rising again, and the federal government maintaining numerous bans on exploration and drilling, the American contribution to the world oil and gas supply remains artificially low. This puts upward pressure on the price of each resource.
Supporters of fracking argue that the potential benefits far outweigh any possible environmental concerns while opponents speak of tremors and flammable tap water. Until the assembly and governor act, the industry’s growth might stall solely because of uncertainty with all of the varying rules and regulations across the state.