Advice from Gen. HayesWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rutherford B. Hayes was a Civil War general, a U.S. congressman, a three-time Ohio governor and the 19th president of the United States. He was also apparently a psychic who saw straight into the future of Ohio and Toledo — and offered sensible development advice.
This week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich convened the “21st Century Energy and Economics Summit” at The Ohio State University. One of the hot topics at the Sept. 21-22 summit was capitalizing on Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources by allowing for Utica shale drilling. The Plain Dealer in Cleveland recently reported on a study, released Sept. 20, that concluded, “Ohio’s natural gas and oil reserves are a multibillion-dollar bonanza that could create more than 204,500 jobs in just four years.”
Kasich has consistently been a proponent of shale gas development, understanding the economic opportunities. Kasich has favored shale drilling in addition to, not in place of, the exploration of newer, alternative energy sources.
It is Economics 101 that for business and investment to thrive, energy prices have to be kept in check. It is Environment 101 that shale drilling, which has acquired the less-than-flattering moniker “fracking,” is going to attract strong opposition.
As described in The Plain Dealer, “Shale gas production involves drilling deep wells and one or more horizontal shafts from each vertical well. By pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into the horizontal borings, producers fracture the shale, releasing the gas and oil, which is then produced through the vertical well.”
The study that predicts the economic windfall was based on information from oil and gas companies, with contributions from several universities. It is easy to get excited by the report’s projections, wages from production at $12 billion per year by 2015 and annual tax revenues of $478.9 million by 2015. It is also easy to be alarmed by the claims of shale drilling forcing methane into deep-water wells.
So, here we — and our governor — stand at a crossroads, needing to decide whether to take advantage of this natural resource or to regulate and stall our way into falling behind as surrounding states move forward.
And that is where Gen. Hayes has some words of advice. Almost exactly 124 years ago, in September 1887, Gen. Hayes stood on a platform at the corner of St. Clair Street and Madison Avenue in front of the Boody House. He was in Downtown Toledo to mark the first use of natural gas for light. Among his remarks:
“It must be confessed at the threshold that the growth of Toledo during the last 25 or 30 years has not been as rapid as friends had hoped and expected. … The location of Toledo, on the map, is decidedly and unmistakably favorable to the building up of a great city. It is on the noblest freshwater highway in the world — the highway formed by the Great Lakes of North America and the matchless rivers which connect them with each other, and the ocean. On this highway Toledo sits near its middle point, at the mouth of the largest river that enters from the south the waters of the lakes, surrounded on three sides by the richest lands of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, and at the southwestern end of Lake Erie — that one of the central lakes whose shores are more densely peopled and more productive than any other lands on the great water highway.
“The promise which the map made for Toledo was so large and so boundless, that, by reason of a single element the map did not show, it could not in the nature of things be immediately and fully realized. …
“At all times in the history of Toledo its business has greatly exceeded that which is usually found in cities of the same population. The plain truth is that the increase of population and business has always been healthy, but it did not equal the sanguine predictions of its friends. Hence disappointment, and a disposition with some to underrate the real advantages of the city. One explanation of this is that a mere map cannot show all the elements of progress in our modern civilization. … During the early history of this city, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati all had cheap coal, and Toledo had not. … Now comes to this favored spot [natural gas] … will this beautiful fuel last? Will it be exhausted in 10 years — or 20 years — will Black Swamp from her depths continue to give this city natural gas? Nobody absolutely knows …
“A group of towns near enough to Toledo to share its prosperity, and to contribute by their growth to the prosperity of this city, are all in possession of the coveted prize. Findlay … Bowling Green, Fostoria, Fremont, Oak Harbor and Tiffin all enjoy the benefits of the new fuel.
“In conclusion … where natural gas is abundant and cheap, other conditions being favorable, population will surely and rapidly increase, and all legitimate industries and business will flourish.”
More than a century since Gen. Hayes made those remarks, the point remains valid. Ohio and Toledo need to capitalize on their natural resources to have any chance to compete and thrive. You don’t have to agree with “drill, baby, drill” to connect Gen. Hayes to Kasich, but if we’re still having this discussion a century from now, it will be to our detriment.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.