Ohio is on the cusp of becoming an energy powerhouse. Natural gas and oil, trapped deep below the earth's surface in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, can provide the economic jumpstart the state urgently needs.Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, might seem new and unfamiliar but it's a decades-old technology that has been used safely over the years to extract natural gas and oil from conventional wells. Though it has been used more than a million times since it was developed in the 1940s, fracking has risen to public prominence only in the past few years. The reason is fracking was combined with a technique called horizontal drilling. This ingenuous combination has provided a cost-effective means to access huge deposits of natural gas and oil trapped thousands of feet below the surface in shale rock. The fracking process involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale deposits and release natural gas and oil that is then collected at the surface after it comes up through a vertical well.Environmentalists have criticized fracking because they fear the fluid used poses a danger to underground aquifers. However, fracking of shale rock takes place thousands of feet below underground water supplies. Oil and gas companies construct robust concrete and steel casing around wells to ensure aquifers remain protected.Our state's steel and manufacturing industries could be headed for a revival if we encourage investment in shale development. This is an opportunity Ohio cannot afford to pass up.