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Could Shale Gas Reignite the U.S. Economy?

In late 1998, Chesapeake Energy (CHK), an independent natural gas producer based in Oklahoma City, exemplified an industry in decline. The company’s stock price had fallen over two years from above $34 a share to 75¢. Its market value tumbled 93 percent, to $72 million. “They’re running up a down escalator,” Michael Spohn, an analyst at Petroleum Research Group, told Bloomberg News.

When Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake’s chief executive officer and co-founder, announced he might sell the company, there was little interest. Falling gas prices had reduced the value of Chesapeake’s reserves from $2.1 billion to $661 million. “We’d had higher highs than others in the industry; then we had lower lows,” McClendon says with characteristic insouciance. “In this business, it’s good to have a short memory and thick skin.”

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