Energy Strategy, Technology, and Current Issues in the Oil Industry
Energy Overview / Current Issues in Energy

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.


Issue:
Energy Industry health and safety issues are increasingly complicated.

 
In addition to newly stringent regulations, numerous lawsuits have made it more risky for companies to engage in exploration for oil and gas, as well as the exploitation of alternative energy, and “dirty” energy sources such as coal.
 
Perhaps one of the most controversial areas is in hydraulic fracturing, where operators have been cited for contaminating aquifers and inducing earthquakes. The response to hydraulic fracturing has been nothing short of frenetic in some regions of the country, with angry protesters clustered on the steps of state capitol buildings, and operators attempting to allay fears by providing information. It seems that minds are relatively closed, however, the underlying problem is a lack of trust and an overweening suspicion of the other camp’s underlying motives and/or hidden (or not so hidden) agendas.
 
While much of the populace is only now becoming aware of hydraulic fracturing, in truth, it has been practiced for more than 60 years. What makes hydraulic fracturing different in today’s world is the fact that the wells being frac’ed are horizontal (rather than vertical) and the scale of frac’ing has increased dramatically.
 
Readings:

Hydraulic fracturing
http://www.oilandgasbmps.org/resources/fracing.php 

What is Hydraulic Fracturing?
http://www.propublica.org/special/hydraulic-fracturing-national

The Facts Behind the Frack
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/343202/description/The_Facts_Behind_the_Frack
(how casing leaks can cause problems in wells that have been hydraulically fractured)

Global Challenges at the Intersection of Trade, Energy, and the Environment (p. 145-175)
http://www.cepr.org/press/CTEI-CEPR.pdf
 
Guiding Questions:
 
What is hydraulic fracturing and why is it important?
 
How long has hydraulic fracturing been practiced, and why, after 60 or so years, is it suddenly an issue?
 
Why might hydraulic fracturing be an issue for environmentalists?
 
How can companies assure the public that hydraulic fracturing is safe?