US energy policy has been boon to natural gas, oil sectors for years

I was disappointed to see former John E. Sununu distort the facts in his Dec. 10 op-ed “Best energy policy? None.” The natural gas and oil sectors are longstanding beneficiaries of government support. Indeed, federally funded research has led to innovations as varied as cancer drugs and the Internet — and shale gas drilling techniques.

The Breakthrough Institute showed how multi-decade support from the government, including research and development, tax credits, and price supports, was critical to the shale gas revolution. It was the US Department of Energy that first demonstrated modern hydraulic fracturing and mapping techniques in 1977. As Mitchell Energy’s former vice president, Dan Steward, stated: “The DOE started it, and other people took the ball and ran with it. You cannot diminish DOE’s involvement.”

These kinds of public-private partnerships are the linchpin of the American innovation engine. Oil exploration and production subsidies totaled $3.5 billion in 2012 alone, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some of these tax breaks have been in the tax code for nearly 100 years.

Rachel Cleetus


The writer is senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.