Wall Street Journal: 'It's Official: "Age of Shale" Has Arrived'
Article, not editorial, in business-focused national newspaper proclaims the start of a new energy era
October 19, 2011Published: October 19, 2011
By Steven T. Corneliussen
Contrast two headlines about the prospects for transforming the energy outlook using fracking, the sometimes controversial hydraulic technique for obtaining oil and natural gas from shale rock:
* Below the fold on the 15 October New York Times front page: "Gas boom aids Pennsylvania, but some worry over the risk."
* Above the fold on the 18 October Wall Street Journal "Marketplace" section front page: "It's official: 'Age of Shale' has arrived."
The WSJ article does address the risk awareness that the Times headline highlights, but the WSJ "lede" sentence nevertheless catches the spirit of its own headline: "Shale is rocking the U.S. energy industry to its core." The WSJ continues:
The technique of cracking open shale rock to release oil and natural gas has spurred hundreds of billions of dollars worth of deals, including Monday's $4.4 billion proposed purchase of Brigham Exploration Co. by Norway's Statoil ASA. And it has delivered enormous profits and revenues to those in its midst, including Halliburton Co., which reported a record $6.5 billion in third quarter revenue.
Shale discoveries have reinvigorated U.S. oil and gas production that just half a dozen years ago was widely seen as in terminal decline. Today, there is a glut of cheap natural gas, and domestic oil production is rising for the first time in decades. Shale development is even spreading to other countries, such as Poland and Argentina.
The shale boom has already minted a half-dozen new billionaires comparable to the riches brought by the Internet.
A WSJ companion article tells of one of those billionaires under the headline "Richard Kinder: New energy patch king -- From trouble at HoJo's to Texas riches." The "Age of Shale" article explains that the "discoveries have been such a disruptive force in the energy industry that companies that navigated this change successfully are now ascendant," that the "shale frenzy has helped push the total value of U.S. oil and gas deals beyond $292 billion over the last two years," and that on "Sunday, Kinder Morgan Inc. said it was buying rival El Paso Corp. in a $21.1 billion deal" constituting "a major bet by pipeline giant Kinder Morgan that the glut of new shale gas will not be short-lived and billions of dollars will need to be invested in distribution systems."
The WSJ acknowledges that the "emergence of shale energy -- and widespread use of hydraulic fracturing -- has raised red flags," for example among regulators, environmentalists, and local governments. But it reports that "the industry is wagering billions that shale energy is sustainable and can be exploited without political intervention."
Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. His reports to AIP are collected each Friday for "Science and the media." He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA's history program, and is a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.