EC Speaking Of Jimmy Carter And Energy

Of course Carter’s approach to dealing with energy did not consist only with eliminating the insane regulation keeping US crude oil prices below world crude oil prices. Totally aside from (and opposite too) freeing the market, he also subsidized potential new sources of energy. As I recalled correctly, he focused particularly on “shale oil” and

Carter signed the Energy Security Act of 1980, allotting billions of dollars for the creation of a Synthetic Fuels Corporation that would provide loans, price guarantees, and other financial incentives to stimulate synthetic fuel development projects. A dozen companies immediately applied for money to support their oil shale endeavors and began gearing up for production.

What is shale oil ? It is better known now as petroleum extracted by fracking — the reason the USA became the number one oil producer again.

I think we can trust Forbes not to publish an article (by Loren Steffy) which over-emphasizes the (Carter initiated) Federal role in fracking (it is also my first google hit no google cherry picking here).

Much of the debate actually dates to comments made by former Mitchell geologist Dan Steward, who in 2011 told the Breakthrough Institute:

[The Department of Energy] did a hell of a lot of work, and I can’t give them enough credit for that. DOE started it, and other people took the ball and ran with it. You cannot diminish the DOE’s involvement.

In the same article Steffy wrote in his own voice

It’s one thing to note that federal research programs helped unlock fracking technology. It’s quite another to use fracking’s success to justify unqualified federal support for energy development programs. Funding the Eastern Gas Shales Project, for example, is quite different that setting mandating ethanol production levels. The government’s role in fracking’s development was important, but not so important that it eclipses the effort and investment of private industry. In fact, fracking is an example of the proper balance between government support for fledging technology and private industry’s development of it.

It wasn’t about “picking winners,” but fostering them. By reducing the cost of early-stage research, the government made it easier for Mitchell to make the technology commercially viable. Even then, it took almost two decades and cost him millions of his own company’s money.

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