In the United States, the shale fracking industry has long loomed large as a primary source of energy for the last decade or more, in part thanks to assistance from the government. The Department of Energy worked hard to make fracking economically viable, and they can do the same for alternative energy, as well. Here are five things the alternative energy industry can learn from the rise of fracking:
1. Bet on the Future, but Expect the Unexpected
In the early 1970’s, an oil embargo forced the US to step up its efforts to provide its own fossil fuels. At the time, they thought that underground coal gassification and synthetic fuels were the key to energy independence. Shale fracking was not seen as the best option, but thirty years later, it took off in a big way. Government officials should be open to as many different alternative energy strategies as possible.
2. Private Companies Have their Part to Play
To truly make alternative energy a viable option, research and development must find innovative new strategies for energy production. This means that the public and private sector must work together. Shale fracking benefited from this partnership because they used research conducted by the Department of Energy and the Gas Research Institute. The research provided by the public sector is particularly useful, since it is more likely to be un-biased by a company’s needs as happens in the private sector.
3. Pork Barrel Spending is Not Always Bad
Adding addendums to legislation in order to pass what wouldn’t otherwise be able to stand on its own has long been seen as a negative aspect of the United State’s political process. However, shale fracking would have never been noticed as an economically viable process if not for Senator Robert Byrd’s Eastern Gas Shales Project, a piece of pork barrel sending that first recognized the energy potential of shale beds.
4. Firms of Every Size Have a Role
One of the first companies to focus on shale fracking was Mitchell Energy, a mid-size firm. Large firms were resistant to fully investing in shale, but still helped develop the technology needed, while smaller companies provided crucial research. As demonstrated by fracking, an emphasis on large alternative energy companies is misguided.
5. Don’t Expect Immediate Returns
Decades passed before shale fracking became the money-maker that it is today. The switch to alternative energy will not be easy, and its proponents and investors need to understand that they are building a future they may not see for quite awhile. However, the benefits will eventually start rolling in, so it’s important to be patient and, above all, optimistic.