The Frackers, by Gregory Zuckerman

February 20, 2015

The Frackers, by Gregory Zuckerman. New York: Portfolio, 2013. 404 pp. $29.95 (hardcover). The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, the second book by Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman, tells the story of the development, over the past several decades, of the amazing technology by which oil and gas have been made to flow from previously unyielding stone, in quantities tallied in the hundreds of billions of barrels and trillions of cubic feet. Zuckerman’s complex narrative crisscrosses the country to Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the badlands of Montana and the Dakotas. The book is the result of (among other things) more than a hundred hours of interviews with those whose story it tells; Zuckerman often uses the perspective gained from these firsthand accounts to give the story a fly-on-the-boardroom-wall feel. The Frackers, as the title suggests, is as much about the stories of the men who developed fracking as it is about the technology itself. Some of these men were children of poor immigrants; others grew up in hardscrabble rural western towns. Zuckerman paints detailed portraits of their upbringings and backgrounds. What they all had in common is that these men were focused and driven, verging on obsessed, with making the earth yield its oil and gas riches. They built and risked vast fortunes, sometimes succeeding wildly, sometimes losing everything, only to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start again. Zuckerman explains the approach of these “wildcatter” energy explorers: A wildcatter is an independent operator who searches for oil or natural gas in areas that can be miles from the closest producing well. These men—and they almost always are men—are equal parts gamblers, salesmen, and geologists. Supremely confident, wildcatters drum up financing from banks or investors by describing how they will tap a gusher in a spot others have dismissed, ignored, or misunderstood. They repeat the pitch, no matter how poor their chances of success, until they have the funds to acquire acreage, drill a well, and wait for oil and gas to flow. Wildcatters are responsible for discovering the majority of the nation’s oil and gas. (p. 39) He later elaborates:

Ohio Anti-Fracking Group Attacks Individual Rights, Promises to Continue

June 9, 2014

Legislation that grants “rights” to entities such as “natural communities” (whatever that means), “wetlands, streams, rivers,” or the like, necessarily violates the genuine rights of individual human beings—the only entities that possess or can possess rights. With such a legal framework in place, the majority of voters could violate the rights of individuals virtually whenever they want.

American Spirit Alive and Well in North Dakota

June 3, 2014

A recent article by the Associated Press, “Oil Boom Bringing More than Construction,” describes the revitalization of Watford City, North Dakota—revitalization made possible not only in that town but in many others as well, by the fracking revolution. “Luke Allen, who moved here last summer to start his dental practice, finds the pioneer spirit exhilarating,” the AP reports.

Russia’s Useful Environmentalists

May 31, 2014

“Russia’s No. 2 oil producer, Lukoil, and France’s Total agreed . . . to set up a joint venture to tap vast tight [shale] oil reserves in Siberia” Reuters reports. The move provides further evidence that the Russian government’s criticism of fracking in Europe is intended to maintain Russia’s position as a key supplier of European energy.

Fracking Fuels Advances in Domestic Plastic Production

May 4, 2014

Although many people take polyethylene for granted, almost everyone regularly uses myriad products made partly or entirely from it, including modern airplanes, trash bags, food storage containers, lightweight vehicles, stretch films, hard hats, detergent bottles, piping for natural gas and water, insulation for electrical wires, medical supplies, the list goes on and on.