Remarkable. But typical. This administration has just released a 42-page advertisement for itself that it calls a report. In it, Barack Obama & Co. take more than full credit for the dramatic change in this country's energy prospects -- from the long years when they were increasingly dismal to how radiantly bright they have become today.
This "report" out of the White House, which might more accurately be described as a campaign document, notes the increase in domestic production of natural gas and the decrease in oil consumption in tandem with it. The report may give a lick-and-a-promise to the role of "technological innovation" in this turnaround, but it tends to avoid the one word that explains it all: shale.
Just from reading the report, you might never suspect all of North America was in the middle of a Shale Revolution.
Also downplayed, if not completely ignored in these 42 largely irrelevant pages, is the process that, after all these many years, has made shale a usable, even copious, source of energy: fracking. That's a dirty word in eco-radical quarters, and the White House isn't about to offend its political base. So once again ideology must take precedence over lesser considerations -- like the simple truth.
As usual The Forgotten Man in all such discussions is George P. Mitchell, the Texas wildcatter who spent a lifetime promoting and perfecting and developing and refining his notion that far below the surface of the wide-open plains lay a source of untold energy -- if only it could be tapped. And he proposed a way to bring it to the surface: horizontal hydraulic fracturing, now known just as fracking.
It took George Mitchell decades to make his one driving idea reality, and to do it he had to overcome many a hurdle, including the usual blindness of conventional wisdom. He may have gone broke more than once, but he never gave up. Giving up was not in his character. He was the very personification not only of innovation but tenacity.
It was only to be expected that an official report out of Washington should overlook George Mitchell and his idea even as it is paying off -- perhaps even beyond his soaring dreams. For a few days of fracking might be enough to produce decades of fuel from a single successful well.
In order to fully appreciate this moment, let's go back in time. Remember the Energy Crisis? How about oil embargoes? The image those now dated phrases always bring to my mind is that of an ill-starred president named Jimmy Carter wearing a sweater in the Oval Office -- and he is delivering a stark message to the nation: Colder, darker days lay ahead. And the best we could do was to shiver, lower our thermostats and button up.