Shale Gas & Fracking: The Science Behind the Controversy

Shale Gas and Fracking: The Science Behind the Controversy by Michael Stephenson
A fracking site at Fox Creek, Alberta
By Michael Stephenson
Elsevier Science Publishing Co Inc

The shale gas debate (pro and con) is highly polarised in the US and Europe. Information on the web, in the media, or on gas company websites is often biased, presenting no scientific evidence or distorting the evidence, thinly disguising the agenda beneath. People who want to know about shale gas because of its controversial image or because they are personally affected by it want unbiased information and scientific evidence so that they can make informed choices.

Mike Stephenson's new book 'Shale gas and fracking: the Science Behind the Controversy' looks at the geology and environmental aspects of shale gas from the European and American perspective, debunking the 'bad science' on both sides of the argument and making clear the science that does matter so that people can make an informed choice. The science that does matter is peer-reviewed and published and therefore independent. In the book Mike reviews and explains in a simple and compelling narrative the key papers and studies that form the background to the debate. Mike sets this science within the general context of the geological processes that are involved.

For example the book considers the claims made that Pennsylvania water wells are polluted with migrated gas from fracking (publicised by the film Gaslands), and the counter claims from drilling companies that no such contamination has occurred and that gas in water wells is natural. The relevant chapter will first establish the geological fundamentals: (1) what is groundwater (2) what is its normal composition (3) how does it get underground, and (4) why does it sometimes contain natural methane? The chapter then examines peer reviewed studies that are relevant to the arguments for and against, simplifying this evidence to allow the reader to judge for himself or herself. Each chapter will follow a similar format - going from the principles to peer-reviewed case studies - for earthquakes, radioactivity and climate change.

This is an opportune time to publish a book on shale gas and fracking because interest in the science is growing and because there is misinformation in the public domain affecting public views and policy. In addition many parts of Europe and the UK are considering granting licences to shale gas companies to explore. Thus there will be a great demand from people interested to know what it means for them.

You can hear Mike talking about The science behind the controversy on BBC Radio 4's Today show, Saturday 28th February. Listen here (21 minutes and 30 seconds in).

E-copies can be provided for media review, please send your full contact details to:

Clive Mitchell, British Geological Survey