Award-winning Wall Street Journal columnist Zuckerman (The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History, 2009) calls drilling for shale gas and oil “one of the greatest energy revolutions in history.”
The author contends that reality has proven contrary to doom-and-gloom peak-oil prognostications. America, he writes, is on the verge of being energy independent, outpacing the Saudis, and we are in the top ranks of natural gas producers worldwide. Ironically, from the standpoint of investors, the problem has been an unpredicted glut of natural gas that unexpectedly caused prices to bottom out. Zuckerman claims that the United States is on the verge of an energy boom that will generate “more than two million new jobs by 2020,” since the low cost of American gas and oil will lure investment. Export abroad will decrease the trade deficit and strengthen the dollar, while energy independence will free the U.S. from “costly foreign entanglements.” The author chronicles the success of a group of wildcatters initially operating on the fringes of the energy industry. Fracking—a shorthand term for high-pressure, hydraulic fracturing of rock to release oil or gas—was a known technology since the days of the Civil War, but it took off during the economic boom of the 1990s. Zuckerman profiles the major players in the game, and he also addresses the ecological impact of the technology. He believes that while there are issues—e.g., potential contamination of the water supply and increased seismic activity—he is optimistic that they can be addressed and remedied in a proper regulatory environment. A first step would be to reveal the composition of pressurized liquid to ensure that it does not contain toxins or carcinogens.
A fascinating study of American entrepreneurial culture and the modern robber barons who succeeded in creating an energy revolution.