Ohio's oil and gas industry is experiencing a renaissance. In the few years since energy producers worldwide began to turn their attention to our state's vast resources within the Utica Shale, we have seen the incredible potential these natural resources offer for Ohio's economic viability and future prosperity.
Last year, our organization released an economic impact study that provided the first comprehensive analysis of how planned development in Ohio's Utica Shale formation could benefit the state. With projections of more than 204,000 Ohio jobs created and supported by the development of this geological gift through 2015, the positive impact it will have is astounding.
This year, we have seen enormous and immediate gains in Ohio's work force. Employment tied to shale development has surpassed our initial projections, with more than 8,000 reported jobs created or supported by the industry. The steel and manufacturing industries, long dormant within our borders, have returned to meet the demands of a burgeoning energy industry.
Along with the steady increase in attention to our homegrown energy resources and their great potential for our state, there has been an increase in the volume of conversations across Ohio about shale development. Unfortunately, some of the loudest contributions to the public dialogue are wrought with misinformation and falsehoods.
That has led to a fundamentally incorrect assumption: that we are faced with a choice between good environmental stewardship and the revitalization of our economy that continued development would provide. This is a false choice.
Many who oppose the safe, responsible extraction of oil and natural gas have done themselves and their neighbors a disservice by oversimplifying the process. They lump everything related to oil and gas under one term: fracking.
Attempts to misrepresent fact and sensationalize a proven technology have distorted the public conversation about oil and natural gas development. This conversation may be new, but the practices and technologies used by the industry are not.
Over the past 150 years, Ohio has responsibly and safely developed energy and provided great benefit to our economy. Most Ohioans aren't aware that we've been one of the nation's leaders in energy development for much longer than Texas and Oklahoma have.
Hydraulic fracturing is not a new process to the industry, and certainly is not new to Ohio. Our state's first well using hydraulic fracturing as a production enhancement technique was completed more than 60 years ago. Since then, more than 80,000 wells have been safely developed in Ohio using this practice.
Across the country, more than 1.2 million wells have been completed via hydraulic fracturing -- safely, effectively, and without a single case of groundwater contamination. That fact has been verified repeatedly, not only by experts and regulators in 15 producing states, but also by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ohio has a rich history of safe and responsible energy development. It's increasingly evident that we have a bright future as well, thanks to development of the Utica Shale.
The extent to which this future will be fully realized depends in large part on the extent to which Ohioans educate ourselves about oil and gas development. This education must focus not only on separating fact from fiction, but even more on how we will position ourselves and our communities to benefit from this incredible opportunity.
Rhonda Reda is executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, a nonprofit organization funded by natural gas and crude oil producers and royalty owners throughout the state.