- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DAYTON, Ohio — President Obama came to see March Madness, but he also got lobbied by Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio on developing natural gas in the state.

Mr. Obama flew here on Air Force One Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron to watch a first-round NCAA men’s game between Western Kentucky University and Mississippi Valley State. They were joined by Mr. Kasich and sat in the student section behind one of the baskets at the University of Dayton arena.

During the first half, Mr. Kasich talked to the president and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew at length about promoting the safe development of shale gas in Ohio.

“He’s concerned about the environment,” Mr. Kasich said. “We can do it where it’s environmentally sound, and we can get the jobs.”

The governor said his administration plans to introduce legislation this week to expand shale gas drilling, and emphasized to the president that it can be done without harming the environment.

He said development of shale natural gas “can really help us to become more energy independent. And we don’t have to sacrifice the environment to get the jobs. We can do both.”

“I wanted to let him know,” he said of the president. “You want to let him know what’ s going on on the ground. He was pleased to hear what we’re doing. I just told him that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Republicans in Washington have criticized Mr. Obama for holding up the development of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico due to environmental concerns.

Asked if they discussed gas prices, Mr. Kasich said, “A lot of this is having a chance to spend some time; I don’t want to get into all the details of what we talked about, that wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Asked if he thinks Mr. Obama will win Ohio in November, Mr. Kasich said, “Oh, it’s not a night to talk about all the election stuff. It’s a time to have some comfortable time together. It’s nice to be here, it’s nice to be included.”

The president ate a hot dog at the game, chatted with students and appeared to be explaining the finer points of basketball to Mr. Cameron.

At a cost of roughly $180,000 per hour to operate Air Force One, the trip cost taxpayers at least $365,000, not including the staff costs and other expenses.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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