“George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability, and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet” by Loren C. Steffy, Texas A&M University Press, 2019, 376 pages, $30

There should be a statue of Galveston native George P. Mitchell in every major city in this country. He’s the man most responsible for making the United States energy-independent and a net energy exporter.

“George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability, and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet” a new biography by Loren C. Steffy looks at Mitchell’s life. Steffy shows there was much more to Mitchell than fracking.

Steffy points out Mitchell didn’t invent fracking. Mitchell’s accomplishment was making fracking commercially viable and pairing it with directional drilling. Others used Mitchell’s work to create the last 20 years’ energy revolution.

Ironically, while fracking is what Mitchell is now best known for, Mitchell would rather be remembered for his urban planning work and creating livable communities.

Steffy reveals Mitchell’s many complexities in Steffy’s examination of Mitchell’s life and career. Mitchell sought sustainability while having 10 children. While an oil and gas man, he placed environmental concerns ahead of profits when drilling.

Yet this created greater profits because doing this allowed Mitchell to drill in urban areas (most notably Galveston) without incurring community opposition. He was a housing developer who put existing trees ahead of a quick buck.

Steffy reveals Mitchell as a man who conducted long-term business planning in terms of decades. Steffy shows how the Woodlands development Mitchell created and turning fracking into a commercially-viable accomplishment resulted from Mitchell’s long-term vision.

The book also examines Mitchell’s life. It shows how Mitchell grew up in Galveston, the son of Greek immigrants. While they started with nothing, they ensured Mitchell and his siblings got college educations. It examines Mitchell’s vision of achieving a sustainable and livable world without limiting access to energy.

It presents Mitchell’s long marriage to Cynthia Woods. Steffy reveals the joys and strains the marriage went through, revealing it as a partnership of two outstanding individuals. It also shows how he gave back to Galveston, reviving it from its mid-century doldrums.

“George P. Mitchell” is an outstanding look at an extraordinary and complex man. Steffy shows Mitchell’s accomplishments and failures, his strengths and weaknesses, in a balanced and engaging book.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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