The Fracking Debate, or the FT Reviews The Boom



The Financial Times published an interesting essay this weekend on fracking by Ed Crooks’, its energy editor since 2006. (Click here for the essay.)

Very excited that of the five books he mentions, he singles out The Boom for particular praise.

For a more rounded account, you need Russell Gold’s The Boom: the best overview available of the history and consequences of fracking. An energy reporter at the Wall Street Journal who has been on the beat since 2002, Gold has seen the whole story from the beginning. His knowledge of many of the central people and places in the shale revolution from before they hit the headlines gives the book a greater depth than any other account yet published.

The essay – beyond the oimgres-1bvious self-promotion – is worth reading for Crooks’ conclusion that natural gas a role to play in the ongoing energy transition to more renewable energy.

The idea of gas as a “bridge” fuel that can sustain energy supplies while cleaner alternatives are scaled up has been criticised by many anti-frackers, who describe it as “the bridge to nowhere”. They should perhaps reflect that if you kick away the bridge, you can end up standing on nothing at all.

This is a point that is contested by Cornell University professor Robert Howarth. In a recent paper, Howarth continued his denunciation of natural gas. “Given the sensitivity of the global climate system to methane, why take any risk with continuing to use natural gas at all,” he asked in a recent paper published in Energy Science & Engineering. (Full disclosure: I am basing this on an article I read in SNL.)

“To replace some fossil fuels (coal, oil) with another (natural gas) will not suffice as an approach to take on global warming. Rather, we should embrace the technologies of the 21st century, and convert our energy systems to ones that rely on wind, solar and water power.”

It’s an important debate to have. But to make that argument, don’t you have to explain exactly how renewables can be deployed successfully to replace fossil fuels?

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