The Frack Oil Boom (catching up on the gorilla in the US energy room)

How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World. Russell Gold, Senior Energy Reporter, The Wall Street Journal. 2014, 311 pages

The Boom covers the history that led up to the powerful resurgence of the fossil fuel industry that made the three decades, previous to 2009, of peak oil and renewable energy progress, a minor nuisance for the domestic extraction industry.  Even the Sierra Club Executive Director, Carl Pope, was actively promoting natural gas (as the lesser evil to close coal plants) and accepting millions of dollars from Chesapeake Energy.

I was introduced to this book by a much younger renewable energy professional. I would recommend this book to anyone seriously considering how to implement lasting renewable energy policy.  While The Boom, and likely other accounts, were available, I did not make an effort to understand the fossil full industry beyond reading about our dependence, it’s price, and our wars. After reading The Boom I feel my cursory understanding was an immense oversight.

The power of the natural gas industry that has grown to assume 40% of US power supply, creates windfall after windfall, near six figure jobs for thousands of high-school graduates, $163 billion in investment for just one company, Chesapeake Energy and many multi-billions more for dozens of other companies.  It leads up to a $105billion annual gas/oil production budget in the US.  The social political reverberations are daunting.

My own soliloquy to The Boom would be to talk about how the footprint, of a largely unregulated and tax incented US domestic oil industry, has overwhelming and entirely corrupted our politics. Looking back at my own work in the renewable energy industry, I can only conclude that I was not working at the appropriate scale of the need to develop an energy alternative. US produced natural gas, horizontal fracking, 30 trillion cubic ft of gas a year, 15 million acres of drilled landscape. I feel a little naive.  We still need a renewable alternative and the investment to make it happen has to be thousands of times larger than what we have been doing for the last 30 years.

The Boom does an excellent job of relating the explosive growth of natural gas and explains the market and human powers behind the resurgent dominance of fossil fuel extraction in our nation.  The author is satisfied that, whatever you think about fossil fuel extraction, natural gas, American drilling, will be a staple of whatever comes next.