THE BOOM. By Russell Gold. Simon & Schuster, 310 pages. $26.
Everything you never wanted to know about fracking and how it's blasting tunnels sideways through the ground under miles and miles of the United States right now, ruining water, destroying countryside while providing an unrivaled energy security and a handsome economic return.
That's Russell Gold's account of the oil-and-natural gas fracking revolution in a single sentence as long and skewed as a fracking well itself.
Gold himself is as divided on this issue as this review's opening suggests. A Wall Street Journal reporter who covers the energy industry, he watched his parent's central Pennsylvania farm turned into a fracking operation.
"The offer was $400,000 (for a lease to drill for natural gas) up front, plus royalties on any gas unearthed from the ground. It was an astounding amount of money for terrain so rocky and hilly that the local dairy farmers didn't want it."
Just a few of the things you never wanted to know about fracking:
The wells aren't just drilled, they're blasted to fracture the underground rock, creating cracks to pump liquid through under high pressure that forces out gas and petroleum.
The wells aren't just drilled straight down; they are then drilled horizontally through the ground as far as two miles each to open up as much rock as possible.
The gasoline now running one of every six cars came from crude oil in a shale formation, where fracking takes place.
By 2020, thanks in large part to fracking, the United States is poised to become the largest global oil producer.
As of 2013, more than 15 million Americans lived within a mile of a well that recently had been fracked.
The bill is still coming due:
"With several thousand wells drilled since the Marcellus boom (in 2004), and tens of thousands more planned, there have been some localized problems with water contamination. How many is hard to track. Pennsylvania reports how many wells have been drilled and how rapidly gas and oil production is growing. But it does not report how many complaints about gas in water have been called in or how many homes can no longer use their water wells."
Gold does go on at length, dredging up exhaustive stories of any number of the oil industry characters who made this energy revolution happen, and all but under the radar. But that human element separates "The Boom" from a lot of other "industrial" renditions like it. This is a read that will keep your (gas) pedal to the metal and give you the shakes at the same time.
Reviewer Bo Petersen is a reporter at The Post and Courier.