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Cornucopia or Curse? Reviewing the Costs and Benefits of Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)

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Document pages: 46 pages

Abstract: This study assesses the overall technical, economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits of the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of natural gas. Drawn from a review of more than 100 studies looking at shale gas in the past 10 years, most of them peer-reviewed, this article begins by briefly explaining the process of hydrofracking and summarizing recent market trends up until late 2013. Then, the study discusses a series of advantages and disadvantages to hydrofracking. It notes that done properly, shale gas development can enhance energy security and the availability of energy fuels, lower natural gas prices, offer a cleaner environmental footprint than some other fossil fuels, and enable local economic development. However, done poorly production can be prone to accidents and leakage, contribute to environmental degradation, induce earthquakes, and, when externalities are accounted for, produce more net economic losses than profits. The study concludes that the pursuit and utilization of shale gas thus presents policymakers, planners, and investors with a series of pernicious tradeoffs and tough choices.

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