How Fracking Changed the World

Thursday, April 10, 2014

fracking hydraulic fracturing Pump jacks at dawn in an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation, where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing is on the verge of a boom on March 24, 2014, near Lost Hills, CA (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images/Getty)

Fracking has vociferous critics and fervent defenders, but the debate between these camps has obscured the actual story: Fracking has become a fixture of the American landscape and the global economy. Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Russell Gold looks at how this has happened and how it’s changing the environment and the world. His book The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World is based on 10 years of reporting.


Russell Gold

Comments [33]

mark sadan from Ossining,N.Y

For Sara Jessica Parker in place of Leonard...she is an enthusiastic interviewer but feel must mention very
difficult to listen to as she has a kind of consistent stuttering style (as opposed to when she learns a script)
so that at times she will repeat a word or phrase 3 to 5 times...perhaps out of is quite distracting
and I think it would help if she would A. listen to the playback of her interviews, B. set up a simulated interview
where she would not be so nervous and could concentrate on correcting this very distracting speech pattern
in her interviews...there is no question as to her enthuiasm and knowing where to go...but she should
relax a little, trust in I feel it is a kind of nervous tic in her speech in which she constantly
hesitates and repeats herself, at first it is a little endearing and maybe cute but as the interviews continue it
becomes quite tedious, predictable and tiring...maybe she should also listen to Leonard Lopet and understand
his fluid, knowlegable and almost duet style with his subjects. I do wish her all the best and she can only
improve. sincerely, mark sadan

Apr. 15 2014 01:38 PM
jim c from Kings and Ontario counties

I listened to a large portion of this program today and was struck by how this apologist for fracking was never challenged by the host. For example, when they spoke about the Gov. of Colorado who drank fracking liquid there was no mention that this was possibly a trick - it is common knowledge that this fluid contains benzene or other aromatic hydrocarbons that if imbibed, would be very toxic, if not fatal. To toss this stunt off as anything but a deceptive trick makes Russell Gold to be no more than a PR stuntman for the energy establishment.
What I would like to listen to would be an interview with an expert on water resources and how fracking threatens one of New York State's premier natural resources now and in the future. Can we put a price on preserving this resource? And compare it to the quick profits energy company's are poised to make when Gov Cuomo gives them the green light.

Apr. 10 2014 09:50 PM
Suki from UK

Big oil trolling the comments - who would have guessed.

Apr. 10 2014 07:22 PM


I work for a big oil company and your ignorance is insulting.

Energy development is the single largest driver of pulling people of out poverty and has dramatically improved the standard of living of most of the world.

Fracking has enabled the USA to stop importing oil from the Mideast and Nigeria. The large increase in natural gas production has displaced huge amounts of coal-fired electricity and lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

Apr. 10 2014 06:31 PM

Amy - there is a campaign already started called "Don't even think about it" Still haven't heard any response from NPR.

There are also several towns near me who have instituted anti fracking ordinances. It seems that those areas with mostly progressive voters lead the way. Unfortunately, my township of mostly conservative large land owners, favors fracking ...woe is me. I can only hope that either all of NY rejects it or that the gas companies won't bother here, since it turns out we don't live above what is called the shale "sweet spots" - geological formations of shale that are MOST likely to produce large quantities of gas.

Apr. 10 2014 02:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Peg, I agree on both counts. My 1st reaction when I saw today's show title was that the most important segment wasn't even on it! And I don't know if we can produce an ad, but we can write to NPR. Maybe even send them a petition.

Actually, I'm not sure if WNYC itself is taking fracking industry money--it airs the ads that say it sponsors NPR & Fresh Air, but it has to, since it airs their content. I tend not to focus in on the underwriting spots until they mention the sponsor, so I don't always catch which public radio network/station/show they're supporting.

thatgirl, I was trying to get my 1st comment in before the segment ended, so I didn't have time to include everything (OK, or think of everything).

Alice McMechen, I'm really glad to hear about Warwick's law! Shows it can be done. I hope more places will do the same (how about all of NY State!).

Apr. 10 2014 02:18 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Guar gum isn't a chemical? Of course it is. Water is a chemical (chemical formula: H2O). What Mr. Gold means is that it isn't a synthetic chemical. But natural chemicals aren't necessarily safe either. Snake venoms are natural chemicals, but they're deadly. Arsenic occurs naturally in some well water, but that doesn't mean it's safe to drink.

Apr. 10 2014 02:00 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Amy - Generators that power the drills that operate at 90-day stretches are powered by diesel--so the filth starts earlier in the process.

Apr. 10 2014 01:57 PM
John A

"Well, we're out of time". The earth. I meant.

Apr. 10 2014 01:56 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jgarbuz - Gas, coal and oil are heavily subsidized by tax dollars. So define "cheaper" for us.

Apr. 10 2014 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

My go-to resource on this topic is Scientific American's "The Truth about Fracking," at A lot has to do w/the industry's very restricted definition of "fracking," which ignores how dense (in terms of frequency & spacing) the operation is.

OK, I have to break off here, because Mr. Gold just said natural gas is a low-carbon fuel. It does produce less CO2 than petroleum *when it's burned*, but if you look at its entire life cycle, it's very polluting, in terms of both CO2 & other pollutants--the chemicals pumped in, the fuel burned in the trucks that carry them & the water, & more. This is not a clean energy source.

Apr. 10 2014 01:55 PM

Part of the reason we don't have the data, is that companies have made settlements to sick people contingent on non-disclosure agreements.

The horror shows aren't actually such outliers, they're just the few people who haven't been desperate enough to sell out.

Apr. 10 2014 01:54 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Granted, Borowitz' spine is being paid by NYPR, who accepts oil and gas dollars. So there's that.

News flash: methane doesn't just "migrate up the backside" of a badly-cemented well; it's already proven that a large percentage escapes by tapping the shale itself--it's impossible to capture it all.

Apr. 10 2014 01:53 PM
jgarbuz from queens

Gas is better than coal and oil. But solar and wind are better than gas. I hope that solar and wind get cheaper than natural gas so we can stop raping the planet once and for all.

Apr. 10 2014 01:51 PM

Who would be doing the measuring of the air and water?

Neither the company nor the revenue hungry legislators have any interest in honest measurements.

Regulatory capture defanged regulatory agencies before Citizens United, from now it will just be worse.

Apr. 10 2014 01:51 PM
bill from brooklyn

What about the earthquakes?

Apr. 10 2014 01:51 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Siderius - Using the term "polemicists" has basically changed my entire view of Borowitz. I used to think he was about truth; this entire thing proves he has no spine.

Apr. 10 2014 01:50 PM

Interesting that oil & gas companies can invest anything it takes to technically improve their extraction techniques.
Also interesting that our politicians constantly remind us that technical improvements to clean, alternative energy solutions are impractical and therefore impossible.

When there is a will there is a way, when there is no will, there is no way.

Also interesting is that this segment did not even rate the Lopate banner headline for Today's show, while it's obvious that there's a lot a listener interest.

Apr. 10 2014 01:49 PM
Alice McMechen from Warwick, NY

There is no way to make fracking see, because the end product is a fossil fuel and we are way beyond being able to accommodate any further fossil fuel development and production on this planet.

Let's, please, have the right conversations now, how to get off of fossil fuels altogether.

Here in Warwick, NY, we have passed a preemptive no fracking and no fracking waste ordinance. Hopefully, it will remain in place even if it ever becomes possible to frack without polluting our water supplies, poison our land, harm our health, etc.

Apr. 10 2014 01:49 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Antonio - Those chemicals are free for this industry--they're by-products of petro production.

Apr. 10 2014 01:48 PM
genejoke from Brooklyn

This guest is making me fracking queasy. Disappointing and surprising to hear a fracking industry apologist on WNYC.

Apr. 10 2014 01:48 PM
Siderius from Kingston NJ

I don't think Leonard Lopate would receive this guest with such gaga wonderment and refer to the movement against fracking as polemicists. This is a rape and pollution of the earth resulting in pollution of the atmosphere and it is appropriate to explore the perfectly valid dissent to it as well.

Apr. 10 2014 01:46 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Seriously--I expect Borowitz to call him on this nonsense.
And this "natural gas is cleaner than coal" is like saying aspartame is better than saccharine.

Apr. 10 2014 01:45 PM
antonio from baySide

Is it possible to use 'organic' elements in the process? My guess chemicals are used because they're cheap and abundant...

Apr. 10 2014 01:45 PM
John A from Lost Vestigate

This?? is investigative journalism??
I heard some sence of humor poking through. C'mon Andy, get your gut going.

Apr. 10 2014 01:43 PM
bill from brooklyn

They should have called that book "How Awesome Is Fracking?!" because that's the tone of this interview.

Apr. 10 2014 01:40 PM
SL from Manhattan

It seems the guest is a fracking advocate. Just because fracking is going on doesn't mean it SHOULD go on, or that the public should be cohered into accepting this mode of oil extraction. There are countless studies that prove that it's horribly destructive to the environment. And a clean, healthy environment is priceless.
The problem is these big oil companies have no vision or ethics.

Apr. 10 2014 01:34 PM

Guar gum?

How about all the toxic chemicals in the secret brew exempted from the Clean Water Act by Dick Cheney?

Apr. 10 2014 01:31 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Fracking does NOT equal vertical oil drilling or dynamite charge "blasting" from the 19th century! This guy's an industry apologist.

Apr. 10 2014 01:31 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

I'm not expecting anyone from the WSJ to report on this objectively. Better to support truly politically-neutral sources like ProPublica.

NPR/NYPR has proven itself thoroughly whored out when it comes to taking oil and gas industry money. I can't imagine any level of objectivity being afforded their reportage when those gas million$ are influencing content. It's unavoidable.

"99% water...McDonald's milkshakes..." okay--here comes the hyperbole. Let's see how he rationalizes petrochemicals and taking millions of gallons of local tapwater to benefit the industry, for fractions of pennies on the dollar.

Apr. 10 2014 01:28 PM
Peg from Top 'o' Marcellus Shale NY

Estelle and Tony - I also agree with you - "Pure industry propaganda - ads are subtly deceptive, which makes them worse." Wish NPR would do a story on these misleading ads - AND does NPR HAVE TO accept sponsorship from every entity who has the $$$ to afford it? If NPR finds these ads misleading, are they allowed to decline them? Can NPR members nationwide create an Anti-natural gas from fracking ad to counter this natural gas campaign?

Apr. 10 2014 12:38 PM
Tony from Canarsie

Estelle from Brooklyn -- I agree with you about the sponsorship and the ads. Pure industry propaganda.

Apr. 10 2014 12:13 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Why is NPR accepting support from the fracking industry? Why do I have to listen to ads from "Think About It" telling about the wonders of natural gas? These ads are subtly deceptive, which makes them worse.

Apr. 10 2014 10:19 AM

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