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Ohio Utica Shale

Shale gas is new economic game changer, historian says

By Bob Downing Published: November 27, 2012

From CNN on Nov. 23:

Hong Kong (CNN) -- If there's been one consistent thread running through the U.S. economic story since 2008, it's been the steady drumbeat of gloom.

Outright recession or sub-standard growth, stubbornly high unemployment and fiscal crises have been the topics du jour when it comes to the world's biggest economy.

But now an unlikely champion for U.S. growth under the Obama administration has emerged -- a former adviser to a Republican Party presidential candidate and Harvard history professor, Niall Ferguson, who says America could actually be heading toward a new economic "golden age."

And it has nothing to do with Washington and everything to do with energy.

Ferguson, who is also an author and commentator, believes the production of natural gas and oil from shale formations via a process known as "fracking" -- forcing open rocks by injecting fluid into cracks -- will be a game changer.

 

"This is an absolutely huge phenomenon with massive implications for the U.S. economy, and I think most people are still a little bit slow to appreciate just how big this is," he said in Hong Kong this week.

"Conceivably it does mean a new golden age."

U.S. energy production has been booming in recent years. The International Energy Agency made a jaw-dropping forecast two weeks ago that the U.S. would pass Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer by the end of this decade -- and would achieve near energy independence by the 2030s.

That energy boom, asserts Ferguson, will create jobs in the United States. Lots of jobs.

The energy sector currently supports 1.7 million American jobs directly or indirectly, according to economic forecaster IHS global Insight. That could rise to 3 million by 2020, it says.

"It's not only in the extraction industry and infrastructure, but more importantly cheap energy is going to create employment in manufacturing. I think you'll see a renaissance in manufacturing," said Ferguson.

"That is being helped by the fact U.S. labor costs have been pretty competitive over the past decade, even as labor costs are going up in China."

It is also, he says, a big deal for the dollar. "As the U.S. moves towards energy independence and becoming the biggest producer in the world, the dollar can only benefit. Anybody who thought the financial crisis was going to lead to the demise of the dollar as an international currency is wrong -- it's quite the opposite."

And what of U.S. engagement in the Middle East?

Ferguson says it would be naive to assume that Washington would withdraw in any significant way from the region.

"Nobody is going to step in and take the job of being global policeman in charge of Middle Eastern stability. I think everyone would be nervous, if the Chinese suddenly volunteered to take that job on, which by the way they are not going to do anytime soon," he said.

For the recently reelected U.S. president though, the energy boom looks like it could provide a welcome tailwind for his second term.

It's something that Ferguson acknowledges -- though one suspects through gritted teeth.

As a supporter of Mitt Romney he penned a controversial pre-election cover story in Newsweek headlined "Hit the Road, Barack," which was highly critical of the president's first term.

He concedes the irony that the president will now be the beneficiary of the "good times that lie ahead."

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.