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Presidents Ford and Carter both prioritized gas exploration in the face of the 1970s energy crises. While there was a general awareness that large shale fields like the Devonian field in New England and the Texas Barnett Shale had ample reserves of natural gas, nobody -- not government agencies and not private industry -- had either the needed imaging tools nor cheap ways to extract it.

From the mid-1970s through the end of the century, the DOE and parallel agencies at the state and federal level invested heavily in natural gas recovery technologies including horizontal drilling, downhole motors, and microseismic 3-dimensional mapping.

In 1986, a DOE/private venture first demonstrated a multi-stage directional fracture in the Devonian Shale. Large-scale hydraulic fracture recovery, however, would not come until the substantial R&D executed by Mitchell Energy, a Texas gas company headed by wildcatter George Mitchell. Here, again, the federal government would step in to aid the private sector.
The technological revolution allowing for the cheap extraction of natural gas from shale occurred thanks to more than three decades of government subsidies for research, demonstration, and production, a new Breakthrough Institute investigation finds.

Both directly and indirectly, the government was behind the critical moments and tools in the shale gas revolution - massive hydraulic fracking (MHF), 3-D mapping, horizontal drilling, and horizontal wells.

"I'm conservative as hell," Dan Steward, the former Mitchell Energy geologist whose company pioneered shale gas in Texas, told us. But when asked about the role of government, Steward told us, "They did a hell of a lot of work, and I can't give them enough credit for that. [The Department of Energy] started it, and other people took the ball and ran with it. You cannot diminish DOE's involvement."

Hmm. I suppose subsidies/tax breaks could be justified in the name of national security as we need more US energy sources to lessen our dependence on foreign sources. But once one goes down that road; how does one stop at shale oil? Why not solar or wind too?
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