May 26, 2015

Voters Want Texas-Style Economic Dynamism

(p. A23) Surveys and interviews give us some sense of what's going on. Voters have a lot of economic anxieties. But they also have a template in their heads for what economic dynamism looks like.

That template does not include a big role for government. Polls show that faith in government is near all-time lows. In a Gallup survey, voters listed dysfunctional government as the nation's No. 1 problem. In fact, American voters' traditional distrust has morphed and hardened. They used to think it was bloated and ineffective. Now they think it is bloated and ineffective and rigged to help those who need it least.

When many of these voters think of economic dynamism, they think of places like Texas, the top job producer in the nation over the past decade, and, especially, places like Houston, a low-regulation, low-cost-of-living place. In places like Wisconsin, voters in the middle class private sector support candidates who cut state pensions and pass right-to-work laws, so that economic governance can be more Texas-style.

For the full commentary, see:

David Brooks. "The Field Is Flat." The New York Times (Fri., MARCH 27, 2015): A23.

February 17, 2015

Congress Appropriates Funds to Test Concussion Theory of Rain

(p. 190) the first century A.D., when the Greek moralist Plutarch came up with the notion that rain followed military battles. Napoleon believed as much and fired cannons and guns at the sky to muddy up the ground between him and his attackers. Civil War veterans who wallowed in cold slop believed that ceaseless, close-range artillery fire had opened up the skies. In the late 1890s, as the first nesters started to dig their toeholds on the dry side of the one hundredth meridian, Congress had appropriated money to test the concussion theory in Texas. The tests were done by a man named Dyrenforth. He tried mightily, with government auditors looking over (p. 191) his shoulder, but Dyrenforth could not force a drop from the hot skies of Texas. From then on, he was called "Dry-Henceforth."

Government-sponsored failure didn't stop others from trying. A man who called himself "the moisture accelerator," Charles M. Hatfield, roamed the plains around the turn of the century. A Colonel Sanders of rainmaking, Hatfield had a secret mixture of ingredients that could be sent to the sky by machine. In the age before the widespread use of the telephone, it was hard to catch up with the moisture accelerator after he had fleeced a town and moved on.


Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

August 19, 2013

George Mitchell, Father of Fracking, Took 20 Years to Make It Work


"George P. Mitchell with a statue of himself at The Woodlands in 2007." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ obituary quoted and cited below.

(p. B3) George P. Mitchell turned hydraulic fracturing from an experimental technique into an energy-industry mainstay, making it possible to pump oil and gas from once untappable rocks and unleashing an energy boom across the U.S.

Known as the father of fracking, Mr. Mitchell died Friday [July 26, 2013] at age 94 at his home in Galveston, Texas.

. . .

"George Mitchell, more than anyone else, is responsible for the most important energy innovation of the 21st century," said Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of consulting firm IHS and a Pulitzer Prize winning author on energy.

. . .

His first efforts at fracking, in the late 1970s, were expensive, and at times investors and his board of directors questioned the spending. But by the late 1990s the company had figured out the right mix of techniques and materials to produce shale gas economically, and began to do so on a major scale.

Devon Energy Corp. bought Mr. Mitchell's firm in 2002 for $3.1 billion, combined the hydraulic fracturing techniques with horizontal drilling, and helped launch the current surge in oil and gas production.

For the full obituary, see:

TOM FOWLER. "REMEMBRANCES; George P. Mitchell 1919-2013; 'Father of Fracking' Helped Unleash U.S. Energy Boom." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 27, 2013): B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date July 26, 2013, and has the title "REMEMBRANCES; 'Father of Fracking' Dies at 94; George P. Mitchell Helped Unleash U.S. Energy Boom.")

August 12, 2013

If Terry Were from Texas, He Might Oppose Federal Ethanol Mandates

(p. 1A) WASHINGTON -- The ethanol industry is again under fire from critics who want to eliminate the federal mandate that oil companies blend biofuels into the gasoline supply.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding hearings on the Renewable Fuel Standard [RFS], which called for 15 billion gallons of biofuels to be used in 2012. The requirements reach 36 billion gallons by 2022.

. . .

(p. 2A) Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said it's clear that members from Texas and Louisiana will be targeting the usage requirements.

. . .

Terry has been a champion of the Keystone XL pipeline, making him an ally of Gulf Coast lawmakers and the oil industry on that issue.

Their split over the ethanol issue causes some awkward moments, he said.

"I say, 'You do realize I'm from the Cornhusker State,'" Terry said. "If I was from Dallas, you know, who knows? I'd have a different view on the RFS."

For the full story, see:

Joseph Morton. "Big Oil Revs Up Efforts to Repeal Rules Forcing Ethonal in the Mix." Omaha World-Herald (MONDAY, JULY 8, 2013): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed abbreviation added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD; Ethanol Critics Rev Up Efforts to Repeal Biofuel Rules on Gas.")

May 25, 2012

Wise and Wyly Words on Air Conditioning

(p. 42) It was February 1958. I got myself a room, not far from the office, in a little house built in the 1920s owned by a seventy-five-year-old woman named Mrs. Thompson. I lived in her "in-law's room," which meant I had my own front door, but I had to share the bathroom with her and, because I did not have a kitchen, I had to eat out. My rent was $10 a week.

I had my car, which meant I could get around, and the training school was air-conditioned, which meant my second summer in Dallas was a lot more pleasant than my first.

Thank you, Willis Haviland Carrier, for inventing air-conditioning. I owe you one. And I'm not the only one. At the height of the dot-com stock market bubble of 1999, Barton Biggs--the wise, graying investments guru at Morgan Stanley--posed this question to seventy-one people: which invention is more important, the Internet or air-conditioning? Barton was on the losing side of the vote, 70-2.

Obviously, he'd found seventy people who'd never spent an August in Texas.


Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

May 21, 2012

Texas Was a Place Where It Was OK for an Entrepreneur to Be Poco Loco

(p. 42) Today, everybody knows something about Texas, but in those days Texas was still like an undiscovered oasis of freethinking, individualistic, action-oriented, business-minded people. It was a place where gut American characteristics were concentrated and magnified. A place where you could taste the frontier spirit that is part of our national heritage. There was a feeling in the air that you could invent yourself as any character you chose, and that your neighbors would leave you alone to be whoever you wanted to be. I liked the aggressiveness of the people in pursuing their goals, and the fact that you could be poco loco, as Spanish speakers say: a little crazy. This quality is a big help when you're an entrepreneur. I felt that, in Dallas. there was extra oxygen in the air.


Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)


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