Business

Obama claims credit for cheap natural gas

President Barack Obama has been taking the credit for the worldwide boon of cheap natural-gas, and declining to give credit to the entrepreneurial energy industry.

“The marketplace needed a nudge here,” Obama said at a Jan. 17 meeting of his jobs and competitiveness council. “Folks are acting as if that [boon] just sprung out of thin air and is one more example of the dynamism of the marketplace,” he complained to the executives.

Obama “wants to take credit for anything that happens in the private sector because he wants the public to look favorably on government,” responded Dan Kish, a senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. His gas-fracking claim “is sort of like Al Gore [claiming credit for] inventing the Internet,” he said.

Obama’s controversial statement came only a few days before his State of the Union speech, where he said government participation in the successful gas-fracking industry justifies a central role for government in other energy sectors.

Fracking technology was successfully used in 1999 by a Texas entrepreneur, George Mitchell, to extract gas from shale rock. His success has forced a worldwide drop in natural gas prices, from an average of roughly $8 per unit in the mid-2000s to a current price below $3.

That drop in price has saved people and companies worldwide many billions of dollars that are now being used for other purchases or new investments. The cheap energy is also boosting the U.S. manufacturing sector following the 2008 economic crash.

Mitchell’s breakthrough is also doing more to reduce the atmospheric release of carbon dioxide than the controversial international treaties that are championed by progressive environmental groups.

Mitchell’s entrepreneurship was aided by some federal technology and advice, but he — not the government — spent years and millions of his own dollars pushing his own partners, as well as federal researchers, to develop the gas-fracking technology. (RELATED: Full coverage of Barack Obama)

Mitchell tested his technology in 1999, and sold his gas-fracking business to a bigger energy company in 2001 for $3.5 billion. At the time, Obama was a state senator in Illinois.

Nonetheless, Obama said that progressive government “nudged” — not helped or funded — industry towards the gas-fracking breakthrough.

Obama pitched a similar — but softer — credit-grabbing message in his Jan. 24 State of the Union speech.

Cheap natural gas will support more than 600,000 jobs by 2020, he declared, adding, “by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock, reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

Other progressives are also trying to take the credit from entrepreneurs. John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, declared in a Jan. 24 Wall Street Journal article that “under President Obama’s leadership, we appear to be at the beginning of a domestic gas and oil boom.”

Obama’s grab for credit is ambitious, and is backed by the Breakthrough Institute, a progressive advocacy group. “The federal government developed and demonstrated every significant technology that led to the shale gas revolution: Hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling, 3D mapping and imaging,” Ted Nordhaus, a founder of the institute, told The Daily Caller.

“Without those contributions, there is no shale gas revolution, except in the counter-factual fantasies of libertarian ideologues,” he added.