Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:58PM - 27 Views

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The potential benefits from drilling into deep shale formations to tap oil and natural gas are expected to dominate a two-day energy summit this week convened by John Kasich. The governor sees a major boost to the economy, a drilling boom creating jobs while providing cheap, cleaner-burning energy for Ohio industries.Teaming with the Battelle Memorial Institute, the governor will bring together on Wednesday and Thursday a group that will include lawmakers, utility executives, manufacturers, analysts, academics, investors and conservationists.The challenge will be to avoid the same criticism that Scott Milburn, the governor's communications chief, hurled at Washington: The Ohio energy summit is needed, he said, because the federal government lacks a cohesive energy policy. Yet a single-minded push toward drilling in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations as the answer to Ohio's energy and jobs problems hardly qualifies as a cohesive, long-term energy strategy.In the long run, Ohio must continue to develop a multi-pronged strategy that goes beyond the usual fossil fuels. One question up for discussion at the conference is likely to be whether oil and gas drilling needs encouragement. The evidence from other states strongly suggests the opposite. Instead of encouragement, great care must be taken in issuing permits and monitoring the drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.The method uses millions of gallons of water per well, laced with sand and toxic chemicals, making protection of underground aquifers a must during drilling. Afterward, disposing of drilling fluid must avoid contaminating the environment and affecting human health. Some states have imposed moratoriums on the drilling to assess its effects. Ohio would be wise to study first.Criticism of the state's standard for renewable and alternative energy sources also may surface, as it has in the legislature in the form of a misguided bill to repeal a goal set in the 2008 electricity restructuring, that by 2025 utilities would find one-fourth of their power from renewable and advanced sources. The standard has proved an effective incentive, moving Ohio toward sustainable, cleaner energy. That, too, should be an overriding goal of the governor's energy summit.


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