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William L. Fisher
With few exceptions, energy and mineral resources have historically been underestimated, chiefly because technology and human ingenuity have been ignored, undervalued, or thought to be irrelevant to finite resources. The changed perceptions of U.S. natural gas resources over the past decade-and-a-half provide an excellent example of the impact of rigorously applied technology. Notably, this impact came during a decade-long period of inordinately low prices, when utility of technology was the only alternative. Natural gas activity was, perhaps for the first time in the extensive U.S. history of exploration and development, a pure technological-ingenuity play. As a result, natural gas supplies, curtailed in the 1970's, have exceeded demand for a decade. Estimates of remaining gas resources made in the resource-scarce decade of the 1970's are now exceeded by at least an order of magnitude.
The lesson in natural gas is but a recent reminder of the role of technology and human ingenuity in addressing problems of natural resources and environments. The real limit we have yet to reach is, as Pecora stated in Limitations of the Earth a quarter-century ago, man's intellectual capacity.
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