It's hard to remember now that President Obama's agenda has degenerated into a sham gun control bill with loopholes big enough to drive a Mack truck through, but back in 2008, progressives had big dreams about how to reshape the entire U.S. economy, starting with the energy sector.
For years, liberal efforts to unite around a green energy agenda had run into strong opposition from the labor wing of the progressive movement, which still included significant numbers of manufacturing, mining and transportation workers who depended on affordable fossil fuels for their livelihoods.
But by 2008, these traditional blue-collar unions were no longer the driving force of organized labor. Right-to-work laws and international competition had driven many unionized companies out of business, while the numbers of government and service-sector union members (think DMV clerks and Vegas maids) had exploded.
Suddenly cheap energy was no longer a union priority. Enter the Apollo Alliance, which is a project of the George Soros-funded Tides Foundation. Apollo forged a new labor/environmentalist that would both limit fossil fuel use and spend billions promoting green energy.
Since renamed the BlueGreen Alliance, the group launched with a report calling for $500 billion in spending to create a "New Apollo Program" for the U.S. economy. It included federal subsidies for green car companies and solar firms, cash to make existing buildings energy-efficient, new power line construction and billions for new mass transit systems.
The New Apollo Program called for a cap-and-trade plan designed to drive energy producers away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy like solar, wind and biomass. Apollo promised these new initiatives would create 5 million new jobs.
The Obama campaign fully embraced the Apollo vision, producing its own New Energy for America document that largely mirrored the Apollo report. The only real difference was that Obama's plan created 5 million new green economy jobs for just $150 billion.
Of course, Obama ended up spending far more than that after he was elected. And he has come nowhere close to meeting his 5 million job promise.
Many of the car and solar companies Obama invested in (like Fisker and Solyndra) are either bankrupt or on their way there. His energy-efficiency programs have been so ineffective that even the liberal host of "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart, has made them the butt of jokes.
And Obama's signature transportation project, high-speed rail, was not only rejected by Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, but in the one state where it has been pursued, California, not a single mile of track has yet been laid.
Four years into the Obama presidency, it is safe to say that the progressive plan to remake the U.S. economy has failed.
Not that today's energy sector looks at all like it did when Obama was first sworn into office. There has been a transformation of American energy production under Obama, but it has happened despite his policies, not because of them.
No union/environmentalist central planner set out to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs by perfecting new methods of extracting shale oil and gas from rocks thousands of feet beneath the surface. But that is exactly what the private sector has done. A recent IHS Global Insight report found the fracking industry supported 1.7 million jobs in 2012 alone.
None of this would have been possible had Obama succeeded in getting his cap-and-trade plan through Congress. Just look at California, which is one of the few states that has missed the fracking boom.
Not only did California pass the nation's first cap-and-trade plan in 2010, but state environmental groups have successfully sued to stop fracking in the state. And just to be safe, the state Senate also passed a fracking ban this week. No wonder California has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 9.6 percent.
Liberals often make light of conservative claims that the free market is perfectly capable of solving problems and creating wealth without government planning. But that is exactly what fracking has done for the U.S. economy.
Conn Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.