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Think Tank: What's Ohio's future in energy?

When it’s a frigid weekday morning, you’d most likely decide to turn on the heat. A dark room? You’d probably opt to switch on a lamp. We find ourselves immersed within an economy that revolves around the use of energy; from the light we use to brighten our rooms, to the heated water we used to bathe and to the cars we drive. It’s a reality that many take for granted given the ease of access.

Debate around the reliance on fossil fuels, and a conceptualized future of renewable alternatives being the mainstream source of power have been at the forefront of nationwide talks, and the state of Ohio finds itself in the midst of it. 

So, amongst the frenzy of political narratives, report studies and legislation in many states, an important question must be asked: What’s Ohio’s future in energy?

Energy can be defined as the lifeline behind communities, cities and even entire nations. So where does it come from? Sources of energy mainly come in two forms: nonrenewable and renewable. 

Nonrenewable energy sources come in the form of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas, etc.) and comprise a bulk of the world’s source of power.

Renewable energy sources encompass any source of energy that is not dependent upon quantity on earth. This means that, relatively speaking, they will always be available (solar, wind, etc.).

In regards to Ohio, the use and production of nonrenewables is some of the highest in the country. As of 2019, Ohio is one of the top 10 coal-consuming states in the nation.

Coal is quite possibly the most abundant and used fossil fuel on the planet, and there’s good reason as to why this is. Coal-driven power plants burn coal to turn water into highly pressurized steam. This steam spins a turbine which in turn produces electric power of which can be distributed amongst electrical grids in an area. 

The process is old, but has proved to be efficient in the process of providing electrical power for millions of Ohioans; but at what cost? A 2017 statistic puts Ohio at a dismal ranking of 45th out of 50 in toxin output from pollution, which doesn’t look very good. Simply put, coal is very toxic and many political green initiatives plan to phase it out completely in the future.

Natural gas accounts for a growing sector of energy production in Ohio too, and provides jobs of thousands. For instance, the Utica shale, which extends into southern Ohio, accounted for a nearly 30 fold increase in energy output from 2012 to 2019.

Now, in means of power demand for a large cohort of the population, such heavy reliance on fossil fueled power is a tradeoff that within the parameters of green deal policies, cannot stay forever. Natural gas, while less harmful than coal, at the end the day still plays a large role in damage to the environment and must provide only as a temporary source of power. 

So what is the alternative? And, is there even a viable one? Many Americans most likely are aware of recent government policy aimed at combating pollutant trends and transitioning fully to renewable based energy sources. The New Green deal, a bill spearheaded by house democrats aims to do this by 2030. 

The feasibility of this is up to debate, and personally I believe we should be prepared for a longer trajectory. Say, 2040, or even 2050. The power of federalism tasks each state with their own measures of compliance, and even the factor of corporate lobbying must be taken into account. 

In 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for 3% of electrical production in the state of Ohio with much of that being in wind, solar and biomass. It’s a start; but one that can definitely be expanded on. Initiatives like this intended on making 8.5% of consumable electrical production from renewable sources by 2026, but was effectively ended by legislators in the year 2019. 

Projects like the planned construction of a 21-watt wind farm named “Icebreaker,” which is intended to stretch eight miles from Cleveland, are examples of Ohio's efforts in delving into renewable infrastructure amid much pressure amongst state legislators to do so. 

But quite honestly, the barring hurdle to a system that fully nurtures the efficiency of renewable future is technology. The large state and nationwide demands of a future in which renewable infrastructure is focal, yields very high stress on technological innovation to supplement it. At the moment, we’re seeing heavily vested research by companies like Tesla, whom invest millions into strengthening their battery technology, along with GE Renewable Energy and Berkshire and Hathaway. Two companies that have taken the helm in leading charges to secure a reliable pathway for renewable energy implementation. 

The bottom line rests on how quickly and efficiently an effort in research can trickle down to the job sector; in which will provide an opportunity for many to become actively a part of a shift towards a much greener future. Ohio at the moment finds itself on a slow, but steady course in beginning to transition towards this future. Only time will tell how effective it will be.

 Christopher Lawrence-White is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Christopher know by emailing him at 

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