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About a year ago, I wrote about the time I spent in the heart of West Virginia coal country, reflecting on the consequences of the state’s energy boom-and-bust cycle and the failure to invest and prepare for a future without coal. The post, “Lessons for Ohio’s Energy Boom from West Virginia Coal Country,” can be accessed here. In that post, I concluded:
There are lessons for Ohio. We are in the beginnings of a multi-decade energy boom with our shale gas resources. The wealth derived from the resource will be worth tens of billions of dollars. Notably, this resource is located in the parts of the state most underdeveloped. And while the consequences of an eventual energy bust in the region would differ significantly from the experience in places like Mullens, Ohio has an incredible opportunity to avoid an energy bust and instead use part of the shale gas wealth to invest in the long-term prosperity in the region. In many ways, I believe that achieving this balance—and acknowledging the interconnectedness of Energy, Environment, Equity, and Enterprise—will be the one of the great leadership challenges in Ohio over the next decade.
Recent events in West Virginia continue to continue to offer lessons for Ohio as we become a leading energy0producing state. The January 2014 chemical spills in Charleston, West Virginia, and the lack of preventative oversight and the uncoordinated government response specific to that event, offers sobering lessons. But perhaps more important than that specific incident – and more startling – is the larger story of the regulatory capture of West Virginia’s state government by the coal industry, which created a landscape of corruption that ultimately enables events like the chemical spills to occur.
A recent article in the New Yorker, “Chemical Valley,” by Evan Osnos, available here, is perhaps the best piece investigative journalism I’ve come across this year. The article examines West Virgina’s transformation as the a standard-bearer for pro-business, limited-government conservatism, and the nearly complete breakdown of the state’s oversight capabilities. Although I’m not not new to stories of regulatory capture, the level of structural corruption highlighted in the article was shocking, and throughout reading it, I had to remind myself that I was reading about our neighboring state, and not some banana republic. But then again, a banana republic is perhaps the most honest way to describe the state of West Virginia.
The regulatory capture in West Virginia took decades, while in Ohio, we’re only at the beginning of the shale play. However, Ohio’s rapidly growing oil and gas industry is also quickly becoming an active and influential force in state government (See, Fracking Money is Playing Big in Ohio Politics,” and “Oil, gas lobby shell out big money to defeat Ohio tax“). We should heed the lessons from West Virginia and be diligent against similar regulatory capture in Ohio.
Last month, I attended Columbus Mayor Coleman’s “State of the City” address. Of the many ideas that grabbed my attention, including the initiation of a study to look at airport expansion and a light rail system connection from the airport to downtown, the idea that I was most interested in was “Blue Print Columbus.” The [...]
A quick summary from CincyBeat (with lots of good links to supplemental information): Ohio ranked No. 8 among states for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing to 3,800 from 2,900 over the year, according to the Feb. 11 census report from the Solar Foundation. [Solar sector grew by 31 percent between 2012 and [...]
A compelling and challenging piece from Matthew Scully, originally published in here the National Review. Matthew Scully was a speechwriter in each of the last six presidential general-election campaigns and was a special assistant to President George W. Bush. He is the author of Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to [...]
In an earlier post, I wrote about my experience with setting up a Village Bank offering mirco-credit loans in Malawi, and I noted that I was curious about whether the microfinance model, traditionally applied in the developing world, could also be applied in a place like Ohio. Excitingly, Kiva, a non-profit leveraging the internet and [...]
The recent government shut-down and near default highlighted, yet again, the deep partisanship and polarization in Washington. In trying to make some sense of this crippling polarization, many people are raising the issue of gerrymandering as a potential culprit. This blog repeatedly covered the topic in the context of last year’s failed ballot initiative to [...]
I recently spent a couple of weeks in Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Although the climb and the high altitude was physically grueling, the experience was deeply rewarding and rejuvenating. Mt. Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 ft. high and has a permanent ice cap. The name “Kilimanjaro” means mountain of snow: “kili” is the word for [...]
During part of my spring break last March, I travelled to Mullens, West Virginia. Mullens is located in Wyoming County, in southern West Virginia. It is in the heart of coal country. Mullens, like most of the region, suffers from high levels of poverty. I first learned about Mullens through a friend, an experienced international [...]