George Mitchell – A Tribute to an Industry Visionary

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George Mitchell – A Tribute to an Industry Visionary


George P. Mitchell (May 21, 1919 – July 26, 2013)

The world, and energy industry lost a visionary, advocate, and philanthropist this summer.

Perhaps one of the lesser known, but certainly very important natural gas proponents, George P. Mitchell is credited with helping to discover how to extract natural gas and oil from dense shale formations. He risked fortune and reputation in doing so, but was confident it would revolutionize the country in many ways once it was successful.

The method that Mitchell used was a process of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, this method is used industry wide and is known as fracking.

Not only did he solve a supply issue, but he ensured North American energy security.

The Father of Shale

Mitchell helped to spearhead the PR effort on behalf of the natural gas industry advocating for regulation and safety in hydraulic fracturing. He stressed the importance of how we as an industry must take the lead on these efforts in order to build trust.

In this opinion piece in the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson writes that Mitchell achieved the near impossible and even his engineers thought so. “My engineers kept telling me, ‘You are wasting your money, Mitchell,’” he recalled to Forbes in 2009.

George Mitchell spent over 2 decades and tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to unlock natural gas and oil contained thousands of feet underground in shale formations. It was risky, but he succeeded in the 1990s.

What happened after that is history. With an increase in supply and prices dropping, manufacturing is able to stay domestic. It’s helped the economy immeasurably with millions of added jobs.

A Legacy of Generosity

But there was much more to Mitchell. Listed in the Forbes wealthiest Americans at 239th, he was also very generous and philanthropic.

According to Huffington Post, he was key to a sort of revival of his home town Galveston, Texas where he donated money to restore the downtown historic district and donated land for Texas A&M University. University president Robert Smith said his contribution “literally made this institution possible.”

Through his foundation, he has given more than $400 million away. George Mitchell was generous not only to less fortunate people, but he was also very interested in helping the environment financially. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation notes as their mission to find sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (named for his wife) and The Woodlands are built on donated land from the Mitchells outside of Houston where a master-planned community and the busiest outdoor performing arts venue are located. Today, The Woodlands house over 100,000 people and includes schools, offices, golf courses and conference centers.

Mitchell was a true visionary and advocate for the industry.

Photo courtesy of The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.