Governments DO do good things!

By Shlomo Maital     


 American Republicans would have us believe that nothing, nothing about government is any good.  We need less government, maybe even (if you’re a Tea Party fan) NO government, they say. 

  But Clyde Prestowitz (Reagan’s trade advisor), in his latest Foreign Policy blog, says otherwise. 

     “… the truth is that virtually none of America’s great inventors and entrepreneurs did it on their own. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they received taxpayer supported federal help along the way.   For example, sometimes I ask audiences if any of them know who invented the Internet.  Answer: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which was the real inventor and developer of the basic Internet technology.   Nor does anyone ever mention the National Science Foundation’s long years of nurturing the Internet before it became commercially viable.  

   Shale gas, too, could not have happened without government help, as Prestowitz shows.

     “… the U.S. government spent billions over three decades to make shale gas and oil a reality. The effort began in the 1970s as a somewhat quixotic, patriotic undertaking by the government’s energy agencies and then the Department of Energy to respond to the oil crises of the time and to prevent the United States from becoming dependent on imported energy. Long known as lacking in innovation, the private companies of the energy industry showed little or no interest when the feds showed up offering them funds for joint research and development. Mostly, the oil and gas companies turned it down and told the feds to get lost.   [The Government played a key role, providing:  *The Eastern Gas Shales Project, a series of public-private shale drilling demonstration projects in the early 1970s in response to the energy crisis;  * Collaboration  with the Gas Research Institute (GRI), an industry research consortia that received partial funding and R&D oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission;  * Early shale fracturing and directional drilling technologies developed by the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA, later the Department of Energy), the Bureau of Mines, and the Morgantown Energy Research Center (later the National Energy Technology Laboratory); *  The Section 29 tax credit for unconventional gas production, in effect from 1980-2002;  *  Public subsidization and cost-sharing for demonstration projects, including the first successful multi-fracture horizontal drilling play 1986 and Mitchell Energy’s first horizontal well in 1991; *   Three-dimensional microseismic imaging, a geologic mapping technology developed by Sandia National Laboratories.

    Prestowitz reminds us to  pause for a moment to thank our great bureaucrats,  as well as  of course the late George Mitchell,  the entrepreneur whose passion created the natural gas generated by ‘fracking’ in America.