Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale, by Tom Wilber, Cornell University Press, €20.95, $27.95.
Nobody wants dead fish in ponds, contaminated drinking water that makes people sick and animals vomit, or exploding houses. But this is exactly what the residents of Dimock in Pennsylvania, are facing, due to the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, also known as fracking. The Marcellus Shale Formation, that is said to hold hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas, runs through Pennsylvania. This attracts natural gas companies to acquire land and plant wells that now destroy the natural watersheds, landscapes, and the inhabitants’ life quality. The journalist Tom Wilber has been covering this recent development from the beginning, and now gives a balanced account of these events in his new book Under The Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. The book is the product of years’ worth of interviews with landowners in Dimock and key players on all sides of this controversial issue. Wilber explains fracturing, recounts how it all started with landmen coming to landowners’ doors promising the next gold rush if they rented their lands, and how Dimock became a setting for a global discussion on resource extraction. The book gives a very intimate insight into some of the key players’ lives, motivations, and beliefs. Wilbur’s account makes it painstakingly clear that the industry is not good at self-regulation and that the free-market approach to fracturing is detrimental to the environment and its inhabitants. The book’s inherent value is its impartial approach to the issue, inviting all readers, regardless of their opinions, to learn from Dimock’s lessons.