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Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future

Richard Heinberg

July 25, 2013

The rapid spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has temporarily boosted US natural gas and oil production… and sparked a massive environmental backlash in communities across the country. The fossil fuel industry is trying to sell fracking as the biggest energy development of the century, with slick promises of American energy independence and benefits to local economies.

Snake Oil casts a critical eye on the oil-industry hype that has hijacked America’s energy conversation. This is the first book to look at fracking from both economic and environmental perspectives, informed by the most thorough analysis of shale gas and oil drilling data ever undertaken. Is fracking the miracle cure-all to our energy ills, or a costly distraction from the necessary work of reducing our fossil fuel dependence?

Published by Post Carbon Institute. 2013. 162 pages. ISBN 9780976751090.

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Read the first three chapters of Snake Oil for free at resilience.org

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Those who think fracked gas is a panacea for our energy future would do well to read this cautionary account–it has an undeniable whiff of reality about it.

— Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

Many long-time observers of the world energy scene have been wondering whether claims being made for US shale gas and tight oil are “too good to be true.” Here is hard evidence that they are indeed. America will achieve real, long-term energy independence and security only by doing two things: reducing energy demand and developing distributed renewable energy sources.

— Michael Klare, Director of Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, author of The Race for What’s Left

We are already living with the false promise that fracking would not harm the environment. Now read the facts about the false promise that it will provide an energy-secure future and lots of jobs. Snake Oil debunks all the myths. It is a must-read for our elected leaders.

— Maude Barlow, Board Chair of Food & Water Watch and author of Blue Covenant

Unconventional production from shales has been hyped mercilessly by the oil and gas industry. Richard Heinberg does an outstanding job of purging the myths and bringing sensibility to a dialogue which, unfortunately, has been driven by a brand of thinking on the part of energy producers that closely mimics the mentality of Wall Street.

— Deborah Rogers, founder of Energy Policy Forum, former Wall Street financial analyst

Snake Oil exposes the unsustainable economics behind the so-called fracking boom, giving the lie to industry claims that natural gas will bring great economic benefits and long-term energy security to the United States. In clear, hard-hitting language, Heinberg reveals that communities where fracking has taken place are actually being hurt economically. For those who want to know the truth about why natural gas is a gangplank, not a bridge, Snake Oil is a must-read.

— Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club and author of Coming Clean


Interview with Alex Wise – Sea Change Radio
Richard Heinberg on The many shades of green – BBOX Radio
Snake Oil: Richard Heinberg on the Great Shale Snooker – KunstlerCast 241


Heinberg takes pains to point out the industry’s successes and its ingenuity in figuring out how to get oil and natural gas out of previously inaccessible deposits. But, the problems are fourfold. First, it’s very expensive to do this. The industry’s promise of cheap oil and natural gas for decades to come is an impossibility based on its own cost numbers…Read more
  — Kurt Cobb, Oilprice.com
Richard Heinberg and the Post Carbon Institute are on a mission to debunk the benefits of the hydraulic fracturing method of gas and oil extraction, or fracking, which many contend outweigh its disadvantages…Read more
  — Bill DiBenedetto, Triple Pundit
For those who thought the ‘fracking’ issue was just about water pollution and earthquakes, Richard Heinberg’s Snake Oil might be a little perplexing…But it’s for that very same reason that those who are unaware of these larger dimensions to the shale gas issue will get the greatest benefit from reading the book…Read more
  — Paul Mobbs, The Ecologist
The book is clearly a contribution to the literature of peak oil for it updates recent developments and does an effective job in separating reality from the hype of the financial media…Read more
  — Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
Excellent book and boy it sure is timely! I’ve read every Richard heinberg book and this is as thoughtfully written as the rest of them…Read more
  — Randall Wallace, GoodReads
Richard Heinberg is surprisingly chipper for a man who, if projections by the U.S. government and global-energy analysts are to be believed, might just have seen the basis for his career virtually debunked…Read more
  — Leilani Clark, The Bohemian
With Fracking constantly in the media, this book is a great way to understand the fracking industry without prejudice. Filled with shocking facts, figures and examples, it is a must read if you want to know the truth…Read more
  — Rozie Apps, Permaculture Magazine