The Buckeye State's Missed Energy Opportunities

Ohio should be taking advantage of its abundant natural gas resources.

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2011 file photo, a brine injection well owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC is seen in Youngstown, Ohio, with the skyline of Youngstown in the distance. A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth, state regulators said Friday, March 9, 2012 as they announced a series of tough new rules for drillers.

Earlier this month, the Cleveland Plain Dealer called attention to the seemingly minuscule efforts under way in Ohio to promote Compressed Natural Gas compared to what other states are doing.

The cost of CNG averages about $2 per gallon, compared to today's national gasoline average of $3.47 and diesel average of close to $4 per gallon. The Plain Dealer noted the odd juxtaposition between what Ohio is capable of producing and the few places providing it. Reporter John Funk said that Ohio is the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas," but right now there are only a dozen or so natural gas fueling stations in the state.

Ohio State Reps. David Hall, a Republican, and Sean J. O'Brien, a Democrat, are reportedly crafting a proposal to give state tax credits to individuals and companies who buy or convert trucks and cars to burn both natural gas and gasoline. Their tax credit would pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of the conversion, which they put at $5,000 to $10,000 for cars and light duty trucks, and up to $40,000 for large trucks.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gas prices.]

"The government can help start the process," said O'Brien, "but ultimately it is up to the private sector and market forces to dictate the future of CNG."

The Plain Dealer said the state is simply playing catch-up and doing next to nothing compared to other states. At least 11 other states have CNG incentive programs, including Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia.

It's the same story for electric vehicles too. Midwest Energy News says a total of 14 states offer financial incentives for consumers who buy electric vehicles. And again, Ohio offers none, an oddity for sure, for the state that ranks third in the nation in the auto supply chain.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

While it is well positioned to attract the Tesla's of the world or produce batteries and or other parts for electric vehicles, unlike other states Ohio offers no financial incentives for the companies or the buyers of these vehicles. What gives?

Ohio's Gov. John Kasich says he doesn't support incentives that help only one aspect of the energy industry, but his critics say that viewpoint is short-sighted. Of course, Ohioans already know their state has been slow to tap Ohio's vast Utica shale potential and optimize its assets. But perhaps there's more to it. Perhaps Ohio is an energy microcosm of the country.

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