Resources for the Future. June 2014.

Booming production of oil and gas from shale, enabled by hydraulic fracturing technology, has led to tension between hoped-for economic benefits and feared environmental and other costs, with great associated controversy. Study of how policy can best react to these challenges and how it can balance risk and reward has focused on prescriptive regulatory responses and, to a somewhat lesser extent, voluntary industry best practices. While there is undoubtedly room for improved regulation, innovative tools are relatively understudied. [Note: contains copyrighted material]. [PDF format, 24 pages].

U.S. Department of Agriculture. December 16, 2013.

A decade of higher energy prices and the expectation that high prices will persist have encouraged policymakers to promote domestic energy production. Three growing energy industries in the United States are unconventional gas (gas located in rock formations like shale that is impractical to extract with conventional methods), wind, and corn-based ethanol. From 2000 to 2010, all three industries more than doubled their output, with most of the growth occurring in rural areas with natural gas and abundant land for wind turbines and corn fields. Economic Research Service estimates suggest that counties where these industries expanded significantly experienced net gains in employment.’s-impacts-on-rural-employment-growth.aspx [HTML format].

Hydraulic Fracturing: Selected Legal Issues

On October 28, 2013, in Energy, Environment, by editor1

Congressional Research Service. October 22, 2013.

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to recover oil and natural gas from underground low permeability rock formations. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping fluids (primarily water and a small portion of chemicals, along with sand or other proppant) under high pressure into rock formations to crack them and allow the resources inside to flow to a production well. The technique has been the subject of controversy because of the potential effects that hydraulic fracturing and related oil and gas production activities may have on the environment and health. This report focuses on selected legal issues related to the use of hydraulic fracturing. It examines some of the requirements for hydraulic fracturing contained in major federal environmental laws. It also provides an overview of issues involving state preemption of local zoning authority, as well as state tort law. [PDF format, 37 pages].

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

On October 16, 2013, in Energy, Environment, by editor1

Council on Foreign Relations. October 15, 2013.

Geologists have known about vast reservoirs of natural gas and oil trapped in shale formations across the United States for decades, but extraction techniques weren’t available and the resources remained untapped. Shale didn’t factor into most serious analyses of U.S. energy prospects until the combination of two old technologies—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as fracking—was perfected. A drilling renaissance over the past five years has transformed the United States into a leading natural gas producer and potential energy exporter, reversing a decades-long trend of increasing reliance on foreign sources of oil and gas. Shale production helped reduce net imports of energy by one-third between 2011 and 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heralding a new era of U.S. energy security with broad implications for global markets and international relations. [Note: contains copyrighted material] [HTML format].

Continued Support for Keystone XL Pipeline

On September 27, 2013, in Energy, Environment, by editor1

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. September 26, 2013.

Most Americans (65%) continue to favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, perhaps the most politically contentious energy issue in President Obama’s second term. Yet when it comes to another issue making headlines – a proposal to tighten greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – the public favors stricter limits, by exactly the same margin as the Keystone pipeline (65% to 30%). [Note: contains copyrighted material]. [PDF format, 19 pages]