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Examiner Editorial: Don’t take American industry for granted

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Those were stirring images of families reunited and hope reborn as the 33 Chilean miners were brought from more than a half-mile below the surface to rejoin the land of the living. A world amazed at the rescue should know that it was mainly American ingenuity and technological prowess that empowered the rescue. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama is apparently so invested in demonizing American free enterprise that it never occurred to him to give credit where it’s due. To be sure, Obama acknowledged the role of NASA in designing the escape capsule, the U.S. companies that “manufactured and delivered parts of the rescue drill,” and “the American engineer who flew in from Afghanistan to operate the drill.” But that hardly begins to describe the crucial importance of the American role and says nothing at all about the economic system that made it possible.

The escape capsule was designed by a team of engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia led by Clinton Cragg. The Cragg team was a remarkable concentration of highly advanced technological know-how and sophisticated engineering talent honed in their work in the U.S. space program. For all of its ups and downs, the U.S. space program has long been perhaps the finest illustration possible of what can be achieved by a government-industry partnership in which profit-driven private sector firms provide by far most of the brains and muscle in attaining a national goal.

Then there was the work of two Pennsylvania firms previously known to few outside the energy industry, Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, Pa, and Schramm, Inc. of West Chester, Pa. The former designed and built the 28-inch wide canisters containing four drills and air hammers that working in conjunction with the T-130 bit designed by Schramm’s Jeff Hart actually dug the rescue hole. Despite their invisibility to the general public, oil and natural gas companies everywhere depend on these two companies because their products are the standard for the industry.

Meanwhile, Obama has appointed a NASA administrator who thinks his first duty is to tell the world about Muslims’ historic role in science. Even worse, the president and his political allies in Congress and the Big Green environmental movement rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the American energy industry for a lengthy litany of supposed evils. As Texas corporate executive Bill Whitefield wrote this week in the Houston Chronicle: “The U.S. drilling industry’s continually improving safety and environmental standards set the bar for operations worldwide. Though revered abroad, the industry’s amazing track record is overshadowed at home by relentless vilification by slick politicians and green lobbies.” Somebody here clearly has their priorities out of whack. It certainly isn’t the American energy industry.