Know Ohio: Powering up With Our State's Oil and Gas

Do you ever wonder where energy comes from? Mary explains our state's supply of oil and gas, from its history to today's regulations.

Class Discussion Questions: 

1) Mary referenced "intentional oil drilling." What does she mean by "intentional oil drilling?"

2) Why was Findlay called the city of light?

Read the Script: 

From the moment you flip on your light in the morning, to the video games you play before you turn in for the night, our world is powered by energy!

In fact, you’re only seeing me right now because something is plugged into a wall, providing energy. But where does the energy from the outlet come from?

Power plants in our communities use many different resources to create energy, but most of these plants make energy by burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are oil, natural gas, and coal – and they’re called fossil fuels because they were actually formed over millions and millions of years from the remains of dead prehistoric plants and animals.

But where are these fossil fuels? Well, like most fossils, they are thousands of feet beneath us, trapped in rock – called shale. Here in Ohio, we’ve got two shale formations that we’re currently drilling – the Utica and the Marcellus. Combined, we’re sitting on millions of gallons of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas – that’s enough to keep your Xbox powered up for a looooooong time. And we’re tapping into this energy like never before with over 50 thousand wells statewide.

Although we’re ranked 10th in the country in gas and oil production, Ohio lays claim to the world’s first discovery of oil from a drilled well back in 1814 – even though it was an accident. Back then, they were drilling for salt, which was a far more valuable substance. At first, the drillers didn’t quite know what to make of the oozing oil they stumbled upon. But soon, oil became a commodity, used to illuminate lamps in the mid-1800’s.

The first intentional oil drilling in Ohio didn’t take place until 1860 – and by the 1880’s, oil boom towns were popping up all over the state. One of the biggest booms happened in Findlay, where townspeople built gaslight arches in the streets and the city offered free fuel and light to attract many industries. Of course, back then, the people of Findlay believed the supply of oil and gas beneath their city was infinite…but just ten years after being hailed “The City of Light,” the oil and gas in Findlay dried up.

But the oil and gas industry just picked up and moved further east in the state and, by 1896, Ohio was the leading oil and gas producer in the nation. The high number of oil and gas wells, disrupted once peaceful small towns, and abandoned wells led to a number of environmental problems in our state – oil and gas, and the byproducts of oil drilling, can be toxic to plants and animals, and can contaminate our drinking water.

The first drillers were largely unregulated, but soon the Ohio state government saw the need to step in and pass regulations to limit the number of oil wells in an area, and hold drillers responsible for protecting the land around their wells.

Today, many still think we need even more regulations – or, better yet, that we should be investing in alternative sources of energy, but, for now, we’re still very much dependent on the fuels beneath us to power our lives.

Instructional Links

Know Ohio: Ohio’s Oil and Gas

Interactive Map: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Oil and Gas Wells

Website: American Petroleum Institute, Oil & Gas Workforce | Explore oil & gas careers

Website Article: U. S. Energy Information Administration, Energy Kids, Natural Gas

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