THE-BOOM-684x1024On Thursday, February 5th, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte welcomed Russell Gold as part of its ongoing Speaker Series Program. Gold, an investigative journalist for The Wall Street Journal and author of “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World,” gave a balanced and fact-focused perspective on the pressing topic of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” From the start, he approached this controversial subject with clarity and objectivity.

“We can’t even agree on how to spell it,” said Gold. “So how can we expect to agree if it’s good?”

In order to answer this question, Gold used his decade-long research to provide his audience of students and professionals a comprehensive overview of what fracking is and what benefits and pitfalls it has to offer. He asserted that this well-stimulating technique of obtaining abundant amounts of oil and natural gas from pressure-induced cracks in shale rocks has changed the world in numerous ways, beginning with our morning commute.

 “I filled up my car last week at $1.55 a gallon. That’s fracking.”

Thanks to this energy supply, which in the year 2013 flowed from over 100 wells per day, Gold said that the United States no longer talks about importing natural gas, but instead, exporting it. Because of the ease and cost efficiency at which oil and natural gas are extracted from these fractured wells, he declared that “the days of Spindletop are over.”

“Fracking has created an energy abundance,” said Gold. “People are no longer concerned about energy, which gives us a chance to step back and ask ourselves what we want our energy to look like for the future.”

However, Gold acknowledged that fracking is a double edge sword. He expressed his concerns that this economic boost and subsequent reliance on fracked energy will cause people to become complacent and reluctant to further develop renewable energy options. Additionally, the growth of fracking has put an incredibly amount of pressure on landowners and resulted in instances of earthquakes, threats to water supply, and air quality.

Before answering a number of insightful questions, especially from the students in attendance, Gold assured his eager audience that no matter where you stand on the fracking spectrum, you can be sure that it has “set off a revolution, an upheaval in energy production, and one knows where it will go.”

 “It’s changed our geopolitical landscape, the way we deal with other countries and the alliances we have. It’s changed the energy landscape. It’s changed the environmental landscape. In short, it has changed the world.”

Summary by Ashley Rivenbark, UNC Chapel Hill graduate (May 2014)