An angry polemic on fracking and the importance of “leaving fossil fuels in the ground and reorienting the production and use of electricity.”
Older readers grew up learning that America was running out of fossil fuel. Then, a decade ago, it wasn’t. Now there’s a glut, and gasoline is cheap. Most readers are aware of one of the primary reasons: fracking, a process in which sand, chemicals, and water are forced under pressure into rock formations deep underground, extracting vastly more oil and natural gas than traditional drilling. Fracking produces earthquakes and greenhouse gases, uses immense amounts of water, and spreads chemicals widely into aquifers. Hauter (Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, 2012), executive director of Food & Water Watch, an environmental watchdog organization, delivers a passionate history and critique of the energy industry, from Standard Oil to Enron, before concentrating on recent decades. Most chapters are journalistic exposés of fracking outrages in which aggressive entrepreneurs in pursuit of profits wreak havoc on the land and poison the water. Victims get little help from corrupt local officials or feeble environmental regulators. Lawsuits sometimes succeed but not always. Hauter reminds readers that Democratic as well as Republican administrations consider achieving energy independence vital to American national security. It trumps environmentalism. In the final chapters, the author explores the worldwide opposition to fracking. It’s a dismal fact that where oil and gas dominate economies (Russia, the Middle East), opposition barely exists. But it thrives elsewhere. France has banned fracking, but it has almost no petroleum reserves. America mirrors this disparity. Anti-fracking has won in New York but accomplished little in Texas.
There is no question where Hauter’s sympathies lie, and her grim litany of greed, corruption, and environmental damage may stir activists to action but deeply discourage general readers.