The "father of fracking," George Mitchell, died Friday. What kind of legacy is he leaving behind? Critics insist that his technology for extracting shale gas will cause long-term damage to both the planet and the economy. The New York Times's "Drilling Down" series, published over the past two years, included leaked documents from skeptical industry insiders who called shale gas a "Ponzi scheme" and an Enron disaster in the making.
But shale gas cheerleaders remain adamant, insisting that the new energy source will generate jobs and increase energy independence. At a recent Atlantic working summit on poverty and the economy, the business leaders in the room made the same argument again and again: Shale gas is going to transform the U.S. economy over the next half-century.
So far, the U.S. government seems to be siding with the believers rather than the doubters. President Obama has praised the technology's "enormous potential," citing broad support from both Republicans and Democrats. In order to better understand this enthusiasm, here are a few charts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that project how shale gas and its sisters may affect the economy over the next three decades.