Podcast: Fracking, Sustainability & an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet

He’s known as the father of fracking. And while the designation may not be quite right, there’s no doubt that George P. Mitchell set the stage for a revolution in natural gas and oil production in the United States through hydraulic fracturing of shale formations. So, what made this man tick and what lessons might policymakers and industry leaders learn from him today?

In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks with Loren Steffy, the author of a new book from Texas A&M University Press called “George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability, and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet.” Loren is writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and a former business columnist for the Houston Chronicle. Before that, he was the Dallas bureau chief and senior writer for Bloomberg News.

The book is Loren’s latest of three, including one that explored the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Of the late George P. Mitchell, Loren says, “not since John D. Rockefeller had one single individual in the energy business made a greater public impact.” He tells a story of the son of Greek immigrants who built Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation from a small start-up into a pioneering company that enabled the commercial success of hydraulic fracturing in the U.S.

Bill reached Loren by phone at his home outside Austin, Texas, to discuss this fascinating figure, his contributions to fracking, the financial hardships his company endured to bring them about and the extent to which the government assisted those efforts. They also talked about Mitchell’s strong commitment to sustainable development, which sometimes put him at odds with his peers in the gas and oil industry.


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