Investing in clean energy innovation pays off. All major advances in new energy technology, from oil to nuclear energy to renewables, had serious government support in their early stages – even the hydraulic fracturing revolution that caused the natural gas boom. All of these have led to American energy independence. Early-stage government support launched a $100 billion annual market. Not a bad return.
We often hear about public-private partnerships in the clean energy space, and for good reason. Hydraulic fracturing is one of the biggest success stories on this front — thanks to research, development, and deployment efforts supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), a breakthrough made by a Texas entrepreneur in the 1970s has become the most affordable source of 24/7 power in America.
George Mitchell figured out how to break up shale rocks to release the natural gas stuck inside. This process, known as hydraulic fracturing, initially got off the ground with support from DOE, which cost-shared research, development and demonstrations in the 1970s and 1990s, as well as tax credits from the 1980s to early 2000s.
Combined-cycle natural gas turbines now produce 24/7 reliable, affordable power. That early stage investment and production tax credit, together more than $10 billion, both expired as the technology matured. Now we have a $100 billion annual shale gas market in America, and saw emissions lower by 20% in the U.S. between 2005-2020.
There are many parts of our energy and industrial system where we don’t yet have a cheaper clean alternative — which is why we need to continue the innovation we’re already doing — but much more is needed.