I confess. I tend to shout at the TV a lot when Obama is speechifying and calling for more government involvement in just about every aspect of human endeavor imaginable.
But when he tries to rewrite history, I get positively apoplectic.
Take this bit of buffoonery from the State of the Union speech last night:
“The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock — reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”
He probably got this nonsense about public research dollars from the left-leaning Breakthrough Institute, which published “The Secret of Where Good Energy Comes From” in November. The authors claim that George Mitchell, who spent decades and billions developing hydrofracturing techniques in the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas, could never have done so without federal government financed research.
The article quotes a senior Halliburton official saying, “In the early 1980s, the industry as a whole did not have a clear vision for producing gas from shales, and benefited from DOE involvement and funding of [electro-magnetic telemetry] EMT technology … there is a clear line of sight between the initial research project and the commercial EMT service available today.”
That’s like saying the Wright Brothers owe their success to the government road they used to get to Kitty Hawk. Besides, that technology was created by the private company Ratheon under an Air Force contract.
“In fact, the key breakthroughs in the development of shale gas technologies occurred thanks to intensive DOE demonstration efforts pursued by President Jimmy Carter, the frequent butt of energy-related jokes, in response to the 1970s oil embargoes,” the Breakthrough authors insist.
But the American Oil and Gas Historical Society points out that the first fracking patent was issued in 1866 and nitroglycerin explosions have been used for a 100 years to increase oil production. The first commercial application of hydraulic fracking took place in 1949.
A story in the Houston Chronicle in 2009 describes a phone conversation in which George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy in 1982 insisted that fracking efforts continue.
“In the field the stance was that it wasn’t economical, the formation wasn’t viable and couldn’t make enough gas,” said Jay Ewing. “But this was Mitchell on the phone saying. ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ ”
The article quoted Dan Steward, a former geologist and vice president with Mitchell Energy who wrote a history of the company’s development of the Barnett shale, as saying the industry eventually would have figured out how to make shale gas profitable. “But George Mitchell is responsible for making it happen right now, when we need it.”
But as far as Obama and his Energy Secretary Steven Chu are concerned, and Chu said as much at Harry Reid’s big “green” energy summit, all good things come from government involvement — like Solyndra. The contributions of entrepreneurs are given short shrift.
By the way, “bottom sediment” is what we used to drain off the bottom of those big round oil tanks — paraffin, salt water and just plain sludge. We just called it by its initials: B.S.