Twenty-five master’s-level students from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs have been investigating the local issue of oil and gas exploration.

They will reveal their findings at a public meeting at 4:45 p.m. May 11 in Dwire Hall on the campus.

The students began with the premise that El Paso County stands to benefit from a renewed focus on domestic energy production if current exploration determines the county lies over part of the abundant Niobrara oil shale deposit. They wanted to find out if the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

The comprehensive project researched environmental impact, economic impact and oil and gas profitability in the county.

“Successful energy exploration and development could create hundreds of well-paying jobs, diversify the tax base, and increase local GDP by as much as 5 percent,” said Fred Crowley, senior instructor, College of Business, and associate director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum.

Gas exploration could provide a more than $1 billion boost to the local economy, he said.

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“The challenge for us is how do we capture those jobs and incomes plus the jobs and incomes of the related service industries that don’t even exist here yet?” Crowley said.

The students hope that their research will aid in the decision making process as local governments and business organizations grapple with policy-making related to the emergence of this industry, Crowley said.

The meeting is free and open to the public.