An insider’s guide to the most controversial energy-production technique in the United States.
One of the most respected and practiced energy journalists in the United States, Gold (the Wall Street Journal) was most recently a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Here, the author delivers one of the first of a slate of books scheduled to tackle the provocative practice of hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas, a process better known to most Americans as “fracking.” It’s a complex technique, and Gold gets deep into the science and engineering. Bookended by the story of his parents’ decision to sell fracking rights to their farm in rural Pennsylvania, Gold takes a coast-to-coast journey, interviewing energy moguls, roughnecks, mud men and market analysts to present a mostly comprehensive snapshot of the subject today. He also tells the story of the big personalities that drove the industry. There’s George Mitchell, the son of a Greek goatherd, who became the “father of fracking,” and Mitchell’s dark reflection in Aubrey McClendon, who rose to staggering heights and took a spectacular fall at the helm of Chesapeake Energy. There are also little terrors: the revelation that America experimented with fracking in the 1960s using nuclear weapons instead of fracking fluid; the shadowy deal between McClendon and Sierra Club leader Carl Pope to channel millions in gas money to fight big coal; the Anadarko Petroleum executive who suggested downloading the Army’s counterinsurgency manual to combat protests. The book is weighted toward the opinions of the pro-fracking side, but it’s a forgivable sin given Gold’s beat and the book’s thesis. Ultimately, he arrives at a rational middle ground, advocating fracking to bridge the gap between the age of oil and the arrival of clean energy. But he admits it may be too late: “I don’t fear fracking. I fear carbon.”
A cleareyed and mostly neutral study of the price of America’s energy addictions.