Here in Minnesota, we’ve heard the argument that coal was placed in the earth by God for us to use. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich, at his energy summit this week, is the latest to proclaim the divine providence of fossil fuel resources.

In an address at the summit at Ohio State University, Gov. Kasich enthusiastically describes the economic potential of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, exploration of which Chesapeake Energy estimates could create more than 200,000 jobs over four years:

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“The Lord may have placed deposits in the eastern part of this state … that can bring great prosperity to people who don’t have much.”

The governor goes on to point out that one out of every four children in Ohio lives in poverty, and offers an image of a child shivering at a school bus stop in a “paper thin coat.” Exploration of the shale gas reserves “can lift people and lift families and provide jobs,” and “that in and of itself is worth it.”

While some environmentalists oppose hydraulic fracturing at all cost, the fact is, we need natural gas, at least for the short-term. If it can be extracted safely, and can provide jobs for people who desperately need them, well, that’s a hard thing to argue against.

So maybe the Lord is on to something.

But what about wind and solar power? Was the sun also put in the sky by God to create job opportunities in Ohio?

“Oh, they’re all trying to get me to say we don’t need renewables … of course we need solar and of course we need wind … but we’ve got to be realistic about it,” the governor says. Solar power is fine for places like California and Nevada, he explains, but not so much for cloudy Ohio.

“But,” Kasich says, “we don’t want to shut these advanced ideas out, because you don’t know where they’re going to lead.” Many Ohioans were “born to make things,” so “why not make parts for solar and wind and geothermal, and sell them all over the world.”

Just so we’re clear, then: Energy that comes from the ground? God. Energy that comes from the sky? Not God (or at least not necessarily God).

To be fair to Gov. Kasich, this week’s summit was an effort to bring together a wide range of interests to try to forge ahead with an energy policy based on the public interest. Whether or not the effort is successful, that’s a bold undertaking that shows real leadership.

Also, it’s not my intention to criticize anyone’s religious beliefs. But mixing faith with public policy can bring up some uncomfortable question.

Mine is: How does Gov. Kasich, or anyone else for that matter, determine which naturally-occurring energy resources are part of God’s master plan, and which aren’t?

Feel free to offer up your own theories…

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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