Reviewing Russell Gold’s The Boom

Although Russell Gold’s The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World is now almost five years old, it still provides a relevant commentary on America’s Shale Revolution. Unlike many other chroniclers of America’s energy renaissance, Gold managed to obtain an invitation to see first-hand how drillers unlock hydrocarbons from shale. We already know it’s a noisy, dirty process that’s highly disruptive to the local community. But we also learn about the intersection of science with the brute force required to fracture the rock holding the commodity. Huge trucks carrying water and pump trucks converge on the drilling site. Inside the trailer where technicians control the process, “The computers, the headphones, and the focused faces make the van feel a bit like a NASA command center.” But they’re still oil sector workers, so better resemble a NASCAR pit crew working at NASA.

The Boom By Russell Gold

Gold highlights Shale’s huge benefits to the U.S. Oil companies have known for decades that impenetrable source rock held enormous reserves. Early efforts at fracturing it used high explosives, and in the 1960s there was serious discussion about using nuclear bombs. Between 1969 and 1973 several nuclear devices bigger than the one dropped on Hiroshima were detonated underground to release natural gas. Subsequent production wasn’t impressive, and poor economics as well as environmental concerns soon ended such efforts.

The author balances the positives with concerns about drilling’s local environmental impact, as well as the continued use of fossil fuels. He concludes that increasing natural gas use is the preferred outcome because it displaces far dirtier coal plants for electricity generation. In time, like many observers, he expects renewables to dominate, but that’s still likely decades away. Battery storage continues to be a significant hurdle to relying on intermittent sources of energy such as solar and wind. Bill Gates noted this in a recent blog, writing that, “…solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy, and we are unlikely to have super-cheap batteries anytime soon that would allow us to store sufficient energy for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.”

It turns out oil is a fantastically efficient form of energy storage. A memorable illustration comes from a speech by Steven Chu, former U.S. Energy Secretary under Obama. In comparing different materials for their energy density per unit of weight, or volume, he noted that, “The most efficient energy sources were diesel, gasoline and human body fat” (italics added). Apparently, an ample girth has energy storage capabilities to which battery developers aspire in their labs. Chu added that a battery holding a comparable amount of energy would require eighty times more space and weight. This was back in 2010, but today’s best batteries still don’t come close.

Gold identifies privately owned mineral rights as a crucial difference between America and the rest of the world. Although English Common Law underpins the U.S. legal system, sovereign ownership of what’s underground is one attribute that happily didn’t cross the Atlantic. The sharing of wealth with the community where drilling takes place is an important pillar of support. In 2014 when The Boom was published, fifteen million Americans lived within a mile of a well that had been fracked within the past few years. Today’s it’s certainly more. Although proximity produces supporters and opponents, generally fracking happens where it’s welcome, which is as it should be. Since Gold’s initial interest in the subject was due to Chesapeake buying drilling rights on his family’s farm, his perspective is well informed.

The rise and fall of Aubrey McLendon, late founder of Chesapeake, take up two chapters. McLendon was a colorful character who thought big and took the industry to higher gas production than would have happened without him. The Boom was published before McLendon’s fiery death in an automobile accident. It looked like suicide, occurring in March 2016 when the energy collapse was straining his high risk business strategy, but was later ruled accidental.

It’s also interesting to learn about the career of George Mitchell, often called the father of fracking. Mitchell’s persistence with unlocking shale reserves where others had given up is now industry legend.

The Boom deserves a place on the bookshelf of anybody interested in learning more about the Shale Revolution.

Join us on Thursday, July 11th at 1pm EST for a webinar. We’ll discuss the pipeline sector’s growing Free Cash Flow. To register, please click here.

SL Advisors is the sub-advisor to the Catalyst MLP & Infrastructure Fund.  To learn more about the Fund,  please click here.

SL Advisors is also the advisor to an ETF (USAIETF.com).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Important Disclosures

The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy,  completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments.  Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.

References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)

This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r

Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.

All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.

Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.