Paul Greenberg

Who is this Richard Kinder, and why is what he says both so funny and so true?

He's the 66-year-old CEO of Kinder Morgan, Inc., who at the moment is trying to create the country's largest network of gas pipelines. What he said at a company conclave may have qualified as the best comedy act of last year. For it demonstrated once again that there's much truth in jest.

In his ever-loquacious way, Mr. Kinder was talking about the merger between his company and El Paso Corp., which his bankers told him would produce the biggest pipeline company in world.

His response? "And I said, 'Wait a minute. What about that Russian company called Gazprom?' We are not as big as (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin's Gazprom, but then we don't break people's kneecaps, either. We just have to rely on ordinary persuasion, you know."

The laughter that line evoked was tinged with a certain bitter recognition of how an old KGB agent operates. Once again, truth had been served up as jest.

Mr. Kinder went on to talk about American leaders, and in just as candid a vein.

When he met with the president of the United States and his secretary of energy, said Mr. Kinder, he was astounded at how little they appreciated what a difference natural gas was going to make in America's energy future. And is already making, for that matter.

Have you noticed how sharply America's dependence on foreign oil has dropped as the shale revolution continues? Government hasn't. It's still back there promoting green energy even though it never seems to take off. While last year America became a net exporter of petroleum-based fuels.

Mr. Kinder called natural gas a "game changer," doubtless referring to how new ways to extract and transport it are affecting the market. See the Fayetteville Shale Play here in Arkansas. And other such fields around the country. Talk about creating jobs, North Dakota's shale fields are bustin' out with boomtowns. You'd think you were in East Texas in the 1920s.

Not that the current administration has noticed. The president and his secretary of energy, said Mr. Kinder, "still like bicycles and wind." At that point, he couldn't resist noting that "they loaned a lot of money for solar panels."

Mr. Kinder's punch line was a not-so-subtle reference to the Solyndra scandal -- and doubtless others to come. Consider the problems the administration has run into with EnerDel, another federally funded outfit (to the tune of $118 million at last report) that's run into economic difficulties.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.