By Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville)

For many years, we have relied heavily on foreign countries for our domestic energy needs. This reliance has rapidly changed over the past few decades thanks to technological advancements enabling us to better extract natural gas. The United States now produces nearly all the natural gas it consumes. And at the heart of it all, unsurprisingly, is Ohio.

Our country’s spike in natural gas production has made a positive economic impact while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The more natural gas we consume, the less reliant we become on fossil fuels which emit far greater greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas, for example, emits 30 percent less carbon dioxide as oil and half as much as coal and is now officially the largest source of electricity in the United States. It has helped reduce carbon emissions to levels not seen since mid-1980.

This is great news for Ohio, because beneath our feet is the Marcellus Formation, which is second only to Texas as the largest source of natural gas in the entire country. Ohio’s share of the Marcellus Formation ranks us fifth in natural gas production, and is quickly changing the energy game in our state.

For the first time ever, Ohio is generating more electricity from natural gas than coal. This has become a major economic driver for our state, supporting 262,800 jobs and contributing nearly $40 billion to our economy.

Unfortunately, an increasingly radicalized Democratic Party is allowing perfect to be the enemy of good. Their extreme and unrealistic agenda costs an impossible $93 trillion and bans all fossil fuels. And one of the first things President Biden did when sworn into office was banning natural gas drilling on federal lands. Luckily, a federal judge blocked Biden’s ban. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration boasts of having 870,000 acres of federal lands reserved solar panels.

Enough is enough.

It is time for the far-left to stop demonizing natural gas and for Ohio to fully embrace the abundance of natural gas we have available to us. It’s time to make energy prices more affordable to all Ohioans. That is why I have introduced a bill in Ohio House of Representatives that requires the Ohio Public Works Commission to establish a Natural Gas Supply Infrastructure Development Program.

This program would facilitate investment in physical facilities useful in meeting the natural gas supply needs in areas of Ohio with insufficient natural gas supply access. The director would incentivize participation in this initiative by making grants and loans available to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local governments.

The Natural Gas Supply Infrastructure Development Program would be funded through the creation of the Natural Gas Infrastructure Development Fund, which will be funded through excess money remaining in Ohio’s Oil and Gas Well Fund.

To foster and maintain the credibility of this program, rules will be established for the program’s administration. The criteria will mandate that applicants list the projected numbers of customers that will be provided access to natural gas, and outline projected growth and demand generated from proposed investment. It also requires a declaration of the economic impact any investment will have on the reliability of natural gas service in Ohio, including customer fuel cost savings.

This bill is a commonsense proposal that ensures our state has the infrastructure it needs to provide affordable energy to all 11.7 million residents. We all need affordable heat in the winter and to be able to cool our homes in the summer. And the answer to ensuring we all have the means to doing so starts with the vast natural resource that is literally beneath our feet.

Jay Edwards represents District 94 in the Ohio House of Representatives. He is serving his third term representing Athens, Meigs, Washington and Vinton counties.

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