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

July 26, 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: How Frackings False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future 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. July 2013. 162 pages. ISBN 9780976751090.


Introduction. A Front-Row Seat At the Peak Oil Games
Chapter 1. This is What Peak Oil Looks Like
Chapter 2. Technology to the Rescue


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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 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

Richard Heinberg

Richard is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including some of the seminal works on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. He has authored hundreds of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature and The Wall Street Journal; delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents; and has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print, television, and radio. His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992. Full bio at

Tags: Fracking, Shale gas, Snake Oil, tight oil

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