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Akron Beacon Journal: Gusher of energy


August 23. 2013 4:34PM
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Practically every Ohioan knows by now about John Kasich's deep mine of enthusiasm. On Thursday afternoon, at the end of his energy summit in Columbus, the governor declared there is no need for another. This was the best summit ever, he gushed. That may be so. The governor perhaps has been part of many such gatherings.What was particularly encouraging was the tone the governor struck from the start. He talked about the need for a cohesive strategy, stakeholders bridging differences, the state taking a diverse approach, with room for traditional fuels such as coal and natural gas, plus renewable and other alternative sources, and a commitment to energy efficiency.The hope is, his words will result in action, and resonate with those looking to peel back the state's alternative energy portfolio standard, the requirement that by 2025, Ohio derive 25 percent of its electricity from renewable and advanced energy sources. Three years ago, the state came together to set the standard, lawmakers giving the concept bipartisan and near-unanimous support.The alternative portfolio standard provides the essential ingredient of certainty for investors, Ohio declaring its doors open to the renewable and advanced energy business. Part of the decision stemmed from necessity. Other states, and countries, are doing the same.The idea wasn't that the standard was set in stone. Adjustments are expected as the market evolves. What should cause Ohioans to ”have a cow” (the governor's words) would be the weakening of the standard to the point of losing that certainty.Another trait of the governor is the tendency to look at the state's relative economic decline in recent decades and assume little, if anything, has been done of late to push things forward. Actually, in the realm of energy, the state did move toward a coherent strategy with alternative portfolio standard and other elements of the electricity restructuring bill.This isn't a time for wholly rewriting the rules of what is a promising hybrid for utilities, a blend of the marketplace and regulation, linked to the hard realities of the electricity landscape.No surprise that the prospects for oil and gas drilling in the state's deep formations of shale captured much attention at the energy summit. Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal. It can be more flexible in its use. On the eve of the meeting, a study concluded that drilling could generate as many as 200,000 jobs in the next four years. The chief executive of Chesapeake Energy contended that ”this will be the biggest thing for the state of Ohio economically, except for maybe the plow.”Thankfully, even the enthusiastic governor counseled caution, in a classic Kasichism warning that ”I've learned from my faith, the pursuit of material wealth, you're going to answer for it.” This drilling must be done right, with care for the environment and public health, for unintended consequences. Already geologists have reduced their estimates for shale formations to the east. Put another way, all of the excitement now gives way to the difficult task of pulling together the cohesive, concrete and comprehensive strategy the governor rightly wants Ohio to achieve.





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