Ohioans are cranking up the heat this month as frigid weather sets in. On January 7, for example, Cleveland broke a cold-weather record that had stood since 1884. But natural gas is mitigating the high energy costs as the freeze continues, and residents are enjoying significant savings.

Columbia Gas of Ohio says that were it not for the fracking boom, Ohio residents would have had to pay up to 129 percent more for their heating this month, theToledo Blade reports this weekend:

Columbia Gas of Ohio said this January’s average residential heating bill will be $142.19 to $146.19 for the 1.4 million households it serves, many of them in northwest Ohio. . . .

But what if the modern era of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — to drill for natural gas as we know it hadn’t occurred?

“They’d be paying more, and that’s obvious,” said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Based on current usage patterns, applied to Columbia’s January, 2005, and 2006 rates for natural gas, this month’s average residential bills would likely have been somewhere between $234.15 and $324.95.

That’s 65 to 129 percent more.

Columbia’s price for natural gas is among the lowest it’s been in years, which industry experts attribute to a regional abundance of natural gas generated by the modern era of fracking.

Stewart also notes that because Ohio produces its own natural gas, prices have remained relatively steady despite the unseasonably cold weather.

While other states have been reluctant to embrace natural gas, Ohio has encouraged the industry’s development in recent years, the Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday:

State officials say they are committed to working with energy companies to increase shale drilling in Ohio. Gov. John Kasich predicted in 2010 that drilling would be a “godsend” for the state’s economy.

Shale drilling added the Buckeye State to a national energy revolution in which companies are tapping domestic sources of oil and gas. It also involved the public in an ongoing debate focused largely on the environmental and health effects of fracking and the waste that comes out of shale wells.

Since 2010, more than 660 wells have been drilled in Ohio, paving the way for pipelines, disposal wells for fracking waste and refineries.

— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She also writes about energy and environmental policy as a senior fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum.