Join Dr. Maria Fernanda Campa for a consideration of Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It's Changing the World by Bethany McLean, Wednesday, April 24, noon–1:00 in the East Tennessee History Center auditorium at 601 South Gay Street.
Most opposition to hydraulic fracking has focused on its potential environmental impacts. Saudi America presents instead a surprising exposé of the shaky financial foundation of the fracking industry. "The biggest reason to doubt the most breathless predictions about America's future as an oil and gas colossus has more to do with Wall Street than with geopolitics or geology," McLean wrote.
Without the ability to lease high quantities of land and to ride (with borrowed capital) the typical waves of boom and bust of the oil and gas industry, fracking companies would not have been able to grow at the astonishing rate that they did. "In addition to easy access to investment capital, the oil and gas industry enjoys the biggest subsidies of any energy sector—yes, more than renewables," Campa said. "Further, the oil and gas industry is exempted from environmental policies, such as the Clean Water Act, to facilitate and support oil and gas sector production growth rate. However, even with all these economic and political advantages it is quite interesting to read that the fracking industry is still not generating enough cash flow to carry itself. There is no denying that the shale revolution has substantially lowered our imports of hydrocarbons, and for the first time since the 1970s the United States has become an oil and gas exporter. However, I agree with McLean’s assessment that energy independence is a loaded term. As she stated, the United States will always require some imports of oil."
Campa is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at the University of Tennessee. She currently studies how bacteria respond, adapt, and resist the biocides used in hydraulic fracturing, and its implications for environmental and public health. She is also interested in finding novel water treatment and reuse strategies for hydraulic fracturing wastewater. Campa received her doctorate in Energy Science and Engineering through the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.