BLOOMINGTON — Expanding hydraulic fracturing across the nation or launching new off-shore drilling sites are among efforts that would help restore the nation’s economy, according to one business leader.
Matt Koch, vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Energy, addressed a group of about 130 Twin City business leaders Thursday. Koch served as keynote speaker at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Vision Luncheon, held at the Parke Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington.
“If we find ways to allow for the energy sector to grow, such as drilling on federal lands, you will see more revenue coming into the country and more people going back to work,” said Koch, who made a stop in the Twin Cities Thursday in a speaking tour across the country. “(Energy) is one piece of the solution. The other piece is tax reform.”
Koch said shale gas is predicted to create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio; more than 115,000 jobs in Pennsyl-vania and more than 100,000 jobs in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi by 2020. He didn’t have any job estimates for Illinois. Shale gas is locked about a mile beneath the Earth’s surface and hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a method used to extract the gas from the shale.
Koch admitted that fracking is a controversial issue with opposition from residents who are concerned for environmental impacts from the practice which requires the use of fresh water to be pumped into the ground for gas extraction. In McLean County, government officials have begun collecting information on fracking and some residents have raised concerns regarding Mahomet Aquifer, a major water supply for Central Illi-nois.
“There is a lot of misinformation, but there is genuine concern,” said Koch. “The industry is recognizing (those concerns) and they have to be more efficient.”
Tom Mercier, president and chief executive officer for BOPI, a printing and marketing company in Bloomington, said fracking practices in Illinois would be beneficial for the state’s finances.
“Can you imagine the jolt the economy of Illinois would get if we allowed drilling to begin?” Mercier asked, after the presentation. “We might even get out of debt.”