The Political Economy of Fracking

December, 2018

Over the past two decades, "fracking" has led to a revolution in shale gas production. For some, shale gas promised economic opportunities, cheaper energy bills, and an alternative to coal. For others, shale gas was fool’s gold. Critics contend that the shale boom has occurred in a regulatory Wild West, that the response has been fractured and ineffective, or that the harmful environmental and health consequences exceed the benefits from shale gas production.

The Political Economy of Fracking argues that the criticism of the shale revolution has been misplaced. The authors use insights from a diversity of perspectives in political economy to understand why the shale boom occurred, who won in the race for shale, and who was left behind. The book explains how private property rights and entrepreneurs led to the shale boom. It contends that polycentric governance, which encourages a diversity of regulatory responses, is a virtue because it generates knowledge about the most appropriate ways to regulate shale development. Private property rights and political institutions that provide for local self-governance also helped to ensure that the benefits of shale gas production exceeded its costs.

The authors make the case for fracking shale gas using evidence from shale-producing countries from around the world, comparing them to those that have fallen behind in the shale race. They show that private property rights and markets have been a source of innovation and dynamism and that a diversity of regulatory responses is appropriate to govern shale gas development. This book is insightful reading for academics and professionals interested in the shale boom, the fracking industry in general, and regulatory policy.

Governance of Shale Gas Development: Insights from the Bloomington School of Institutional Analysis

June, 2018

The boom in shale gas production has been accompanied by concerns that polycentricity, whereby multiple levels of government share regulatory authority, has resulted in an inefficient and ineffective governance. The Bloomington School of institutional analysis suggests otherwise. Drawing on the work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, we clarify a diverse regulatory response to shale gas development within federations may be appropriate depending on the physical context of shale gas development, local demand for economic development (including geology, geography, and the built environment), the regulatory capacity of local governments, uncertainty about the appropriate regulations to address externalities from shale gas production, and the extent of inter-jurisdictional coordination problems. We apply the framework to regulation of shale gas development two fracking federations: the US and EU. In each context, letting a thousand regulatory flowers bloom is more sensible than uniform standards.