George P. Mitchell is one of Foreign Policy's 100 Top Global Thinkers

George Mitchell long ago made our short list of candidates for Houstonian of the century - the 21st century.

Mitchell's futuristic achievements in developing The Woodlands alone would have qualified the nonagenarian oilman for serious consideration for the title.

His vision of a planned residential community with an equally well conceived blueprint for creating one job per household has turned the southern Montgomery County community into an economic dynamo on its own, while offering a high quality of life to its nearly 100,000 residents.

Most men would rest on those laurels, but not Mitchell. While that community was being developed in the pine woods north of Houston, George Mitchell was running the independent energy company that bore his name. And as he was guiding Mitchell Energy through good times and bad, Mitchell's god-given creativity was being exercised in a second noteworthy way.

Mitchell was a pioneer in the use of hydraulic fracturing to tap the vast oil and natural gas resources locked in hard-to-penetrate shale rock. Fracking, as it is commonly known, is now credited with expanding domestic reserves of natural gas several times over - creating what many believe is a 100-year supply of the clean-burning fuel.

This story wouldn't be complete without sharing an important detail, typical of Mitchell's character and will. As CEO, he resisted repeated calls from his engineers and his board of directors to give up on fracking for fear that pouring more dollars into it would eventually ruin the company.

To his everlasting credit, Mitchell prevailed. Today, this country faces a far brighter energy picture for his refusal to give up on fracking.

At the end of November, George Mitchell was honored in a larger way than, yes, even Houstonian of the century. Foreign Policy magazine, one of the Washington diplomatic establishment's major publications, named Mitchell as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers.

We join many others in offering our congratulations for this achievement.

But there's more…much more…and the story wouldn't be completely told without it.

George Mitchell, the Galveston kid who made a fortune in oil and gas and used it to create one of the nation's greenest communities, then revolutionized the energy industry by pushing for the use of fracking, isn't done thinking yet. Not by a long shot.

This quintessential oil man is now speaking out on the long-term necessity to work toward the ultimate goal of energy sustainability. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper that sustainability is his real passion.

"There's no doubt this nation is strong because of oil and gas," Mitchell told the Inquirer. "But sustainability is the most important thing I'm working on."

Those words, from this global thinker's lips, should be reason enough for our political leaders to set aside partisan differences and make energy sustainability our paramount objective over the coming years.

Thanks to George Mitchell's unyielding persistence in making fracking practical, we have a sensible way to arrive there.

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