Read The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters by Gregory Zuckerman Online


Everyone knew it was crazy to try to extract oil and natural gas buried in shale rock deep below the ground. Everyone, that is, except a few reckless wildcatters - who risked their careers to prove the world wrong. Things looked grim for American energy in 2006. Oil production was in steep decline and natural gas was hard to find. The Iraq War threatened the nation’s alreaEveryone knew it was crazy to try to extract oil and natural gas buried in shale rock deep below the ground. Everyone, that is, except a few reckless wildcatters - who risked their careers to prove the world wrong. Things looked grim for American energy in 2006. Oil production was in steep decline and natural gas was hard to find. The Iraq War threatened the nation’s already tenuous relations with the Middle East. China was rapidly industrializing and competing for resources. Major oil companies had just about given up on new discoveries on U.S. soil, and a new energy crisis seemed likely.But a handful of men believed everything was about to change. Far from the limelight, Aubrey McClendon, Harold Hamm, Mark Papa, and other wildcatters were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that Exxon, Chevron, and other giants had dismissed as a waste of time. By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale—a process now known as fracking—the wildcatters started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy—and made and lost astonishing fortunes.No one understands these men—their ambitions, personalities, methods, and foibles—better than the award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman. His exclusive access enabled him to get close to the frackers and chronicle the untold story of how they transformed the nation and the world. The result is a dramatic narrative tracking a brutal competition among headstrong drillers. It stretches from the barren fields of North Dakota and the rolling hills of northeastern Pennsylvania to cluttered pickup trucks in Texas and tense Wall Street boardrooms.Activists argue that the same methods that are creating so much new energy are also harming our water supply and threatening environmental chaos. The Frackers tells the story of the angry opposition unleashed by this revolution and explores just how dangerous fracking really is.The frackers have already transformed the economic, environmental, and geopolitical course of history. Now, like the Rockefellers and the Gettys before them, they’re using their wealth and power to influence politics, education, entertainment, sports, and many other fields. Their story is one of the most important of our time.MEET THE FRACKERSGEORGE MITCHELL, the son of a Greek goatherd, who tried to tap rock that experts deemed worthless but faced an unexpected obstacle in his quest to change history.AUBREY McCLENDON, the charismatic scion of an Oklahoma energy family, who scored billions leading a historic land grab. He wasn’t prepared for the shocking fallout of his discoveries.TOM WARD, who overcame a troubled childhood to become one of the nation’s wealthiest men. He could handle natural-gas fields but had more trouble with a Wall Street power broker.HAROLD HAMM, the son of poor sharecroppers, who believed America had more oil than anyone imagined. Hamm was determined to find the crude before others caught on.CHARIF SOUKI, the dashing Lebanese immigrant who saw his career crumble and his fortune disintegrate, leaving one last, unlikely chance for success.MARK PAPA, the Enron castoff who panicked when he realized a resurgence of American natural gas was at hand, one that his company wasn’t prepared for....

Title : The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781591846451
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters Reviews

  • Bob Costello
    2019-01-26 11:10

    Great book, almost gave it 5 stars. He tells the story of the people who made the fracking revolution in the last 6 to 8 years. There are so many positives for our country from this fracking revolution:1.It has allow much of our energy supply to move from coal to natural gas. Emissions of U.S. carbon dioxide fell 12% from 2005 to 2012 due to this revolution. 2.Allows us to stop funneling money to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. Cut off funds for Putin's adventures and weaken Arab support for Muslim terrorist. Maybe we won't need to spend money keep the strait of Hormuz open.3. The major savings on transportation cost for American. Zuckerman is a great storyteller - he gives the personal backgrounds of these incredible wildcatters who made this revolution. Most of them are rags to riches stories.The interesting thing about this story is it could only happen in American due to two factor: entrepreneurial spirit and property rights. In most countries private citizens do not own the mineral right like we do in America. In other countries the government owns the mineral rights. The fracking revolution was made on private or state property and not on federal land.

  • Socraticgadfly
    2019-02-07 12:07

    Good technological and business review; just so-so environmentallyThis book is especially valuable for people wanting to understand the technological issues behind both oil and gas fracking, and, related to that, a bit about petroleum geology and exploration in the "age of shale."Zuckerman could have devoted a bit more than he did to environmental issues, and not put them in an appendix. He also could have included something about federal tax policy and related issues. And, he might have had better footnoting for some of his claims, his scientific claims.That said, for the amount of information from the production side, even with those shortcomings, this is still a decent four-star book.For anybody who has a general curiosity about fracking, to those wanting to know more about oil and/or gas development, and through environmentalist leaners wanting to know more about the issues, it's good.It's also good on understanding the greed of several major players in the business, above all, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake.Per another commenter, Russell Gold's "The Boom" promises to offer different insights in a few months.

  • B. Rule
    2019-02-07 05:13

    This book is a good introduction to the personalities behind the shale revolution in the U.S., an okay overview of the technological innovations that led to that revolution, and a cursory account of the controversies, environmental and otherwise, related to the field. The author treats the actions of companies as the whims and will of single individuals at the top, which often leads to cutesy formulations where Great Men decide to take some daring move seemingly without any real motivation. It ignores the collective decision-making that takes place in firms and elides many of the complicated factors that go into such business decisions. Further, it strips a lot of consequence from the actions, leaving a weirdly airy account that doesn't do much to link together chains of causality. It's like reading YA biographies of presidents as an adult; you start to realize just how much is being occluded in the account and how what's left unsaid seems so much more interesting. Zuckerman verges on hero-worship in some of his descriptions of the major players, and he totally downplays their critics and banishes the arguments of anti-fracking types to a brief appendix that basically concludes, "maybe everyone is a little bit right, but how can you stop this juggernaut of capitalism anyway?! Just lay back and let it roll over you like fog!" The weaknesses of the approach are exacerbated by the magazine-lite quality of the writing. The narrative moves in fits and starts and the links between sections are clumsy. That said, I learned a fair amount about a limited number of players in the shale gas world, and it's a brisk read through a short but eventful period in that market. You could do worse if you're looking for a high-level overview of this controversial industry. You'll get to hear from some colorful characters at the very least.

  • Mike
    2019-02-12 04:02

    Very well written. Reads like a novel. Readers learn it ain't easy bein' a wildcatter. America's economy, energy independence and future depends on these wildcatters. If you don't know who they are and what they do, this is the book to read.

  • Breakingviews
    2019-01-19 06:08

    By Christopher SwannThe revolution in U.S. energy came from an unlikely source, as Gregory Zuckerman recounts in “The Frackers: the Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters.” Tiny drillers like George Mitchell and Harold Hamm persisted with shale while deep-pocketed giants such as Chevron gave up. It was a triumph of leadership over short-term shareholder value.Just six years ago the United States seemed destined for ever greater reliance on increasingly hostile Arab and Latin American nations to meet its energy needs. Worse, many respected energy experts, for example banker Matthew Simmons, credibly claimed that the globe faced a ruinous shortage of crude. A surge in the price of oil to a record $147 a barrel in June 2008 seemed just a taste of the economic pain to come.“The Frackers” charts how a handful of small businessmen in America overturned these seemingly inexorable trends.Hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique commonly known as fracking, opened up vast reserves of oil and gas previously thought inaccessible. The resulting surge in U.S. natural gas production has lowered electricity bills, and the 40 percent surge in U.S. oil output since 2008 was enough to compensate for lower output from the likes of Iran and Libya. By the end of the decade the technology will have created 2 million jobs, offsetting all the jobs lost in the housing crash.Why did America’s oil giants lag behind unknown peers in fracking, despite their far greater resources? Largely because they focused too much on quarterly results and a narrow definition of shareholder value. In the late 1990s, for example, Chevron pulled the plug on $50 million of annual spending to develop fracking in Texas. Many investors in the $50 billion company would have admired the frugality and attention to returns.In contrast, by 1997 oil minnow George Mitchell, whose Mitchell Energy had a market value of under $1 billion, had spent $250 million over 16 years to develop fracking in the same region. The obsessive spending looked like the height of irrationality, until Mitchell finally made fracking work. In August 2001 Devon Energy paid $3.1 billion for his company. Mitchell became a billionaire and an energy legend - when he was 82. It took another five or six years for shale drilling to become widespread in the United States and start boosting output of gas and oil.Anyone who took up the shale baton had to be willing to take many years of heavy losses. Harold Hamm, founder of tiny Continental Resources, spent so much trying to develop North Dakota’s Bakken shale that profits all but evaporated. Yet by 2012 oil production from Hamm’s wells accounted for 10 percent of America’s oil output, earning him a $12 billion fortune, which is still growing.“The Frackers” details the colorful exploits of Aubrey McClendon, co-founder of Chesapeake Energy. His willingness to brush aside shareholder caution enabled him to build the second largest gas producer in the United States from a standing start in the 1990s. Sadly the same stubbornness impelled him to continue spending far beyond the means of his company and to use Chesapeake as a personal piggy bank. Disgruntled shareholders booted him out in 2013.The picture that emerges, then,from Zuckerman’s compelling account is a revolution driven by stubborn entrepreneurs – often over the objections of shareholders and more rational directors. By the time Exxon Mobil, America’s largest oil company, awoke to the implications of fracking, it had to pay top dollar to catch up, buying shale driller XTO for $31 billion.

  • Holly Morrow
    2019-02-12 07:26

    This great book tells the story of the shale gas revolution in the US. For anyone who hasn’t picked up a newspaper in 5 years – the US has gone in the course of a decade from needing to import natural gas to being in a position to export it around the world, due to burgeoning production from shale formations in the US that had been overlooked and considered non-producible for decades. Its one of the most dramatic energy stories in history, but I can imagine many boring ways to tell it. Zuckerman thankfully chooses to focus on some of the individual people responsible for driving the shale boom (Mitchell, McClendon, Ward, Hamm, Souki), and it makes for very lively reading. These guys are characters – several of them grew up dirt poor (like, no-toilet-in-the-house poor) in parts of Texas and Oklahoma and went on to become billionaires through their persistent efforts to unlock gas from shale (and then have to take elocution classes so they don’t sound like such hayseeds when talking to investors). One is a charming good ol boy who “could sell ice to eskimos in a snowstorm” and another is a Lebanese immigrant. Zuckerman focuses on the “billionaire wildcattters” who founded the companies involved in shale, but he does a good job of looking at all the people that made it possible – the landmen who literally went door to door purchasing mineral rights, and the scientists and engineers who actually figured it all out. Ive worked with exploration geologists and they are an infectious group to be around – passionate about their subject, dreaming about the big find – these are the guys to whom I would pose a simple question at a cocktail party and then end up in a corner of the room an hour later with the guy drawing on napkins and explaining middle Miocene formations and rock permeability. I had known the shale gas story in broad strokes, but there is a great portion of the book that explains the precise well in the Barnett that basically proved the feasibility of extracting shale gas – and part of it was an accident! The sub-contractor mixed the fracking fluid incorrectly and it ended up being much more effective at getting the gas to flow. So it was the accumulation of two technology breakthroughs – horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing- plus a fluke process tweak that made shale gas really go. Its sort of like that old Reeses Peanut Butter cup commercial where people carrying the peanut butter and the chocolate run into each other, creating deliciousness. I’m sure Zuckerman has compressed the real history to dramatize it, but I don’t mind – it makes for good storytelling. Several times while reading this book I was struck by how American a story it is – creating something from scratch in the face of widespread doubt and skepticism, the power of optimism and perseverance, and a huge amount of debt. The latter actually makes for a sad ending, as several of these companies become victims of short sellers and activist investors who push out the founders who built the company in order to drive the stock higher.

  • Naia
    2019-01-31 09:13

    As a professional geophysicist, people often ask my opinions of fracking. I do not work in this industry but many of my for university and professional colleges do. I have been searching for a neutral themed book explaining what fracking is, a brief history, and some explanation of the rise in popularity. However, this book fell short in every respect.The Frackers reads like a novel, delving into the lives of a few individuals who played major roles of the popularity of unconventional oil and gas. The character developments are far too in depth for a business oriented book; though background is often important in the development of entrepreneurs, specific martial and family problems are not relevant. The author came off as very gossipy.While reading, I often felt like the entire picture wasn't getting described. What were the roles of the major players (BP, Exxon, Shell)? If they were completely absent, wouldn't this warrant more discussion regarding their reasons? What about the big oil service companies (Halliburton and Schlumberger specifically)? I believe these companies did much of the drilling and fracking and were responsible for much of the technology? There was one sentence mentioning Halliburton did most of the drilling. But a better understanding of their role is needed to comprehend the bigger picture.My biggest objection of the book was the complete ignorance of the technology that has allowed oil and gas to be extracted from unconventional sources (and more efficient extraction from conventional sources). These fields have been rediscovered because of the vast teams of geologists, engineers and geophysicists in the office and the fields crunching numbers, guiding the drill rigs, targeting the fracture locations and intensities. The author misleads all readers into thinking this was a revolution driven by lucky, testosterone driven, risk-taking wildcatters. Not one mention of microseismic imaging or propant development. I wasn't expecting a college textbook but by completely glossing over the innovations responsible for the energy revolution, one cannot get an idea of why we are pumping more product out of the ground. Not just any wealthy wildcatter can decide to drill a hole and get oil or gas, there is a lot more thought that needs to go into the process from the beginning to end. I also believe that by discounting the technology, this book contributed to the misrepresentation of the industry to the environmental activist sector.If you happen to have this book on your shelf, I would recommend reading the last 120 pages. I did find interesting how each character dealt with the financial crisis. The Afterward contains some interesting, brief discussions of the environmental issues, possible global infrastructure problems, and the future of the industry. I felt the information in the end of the book was very useful, however, the first 280 pages just floundered.

  • Marci
    2019-01-22 10:10

    I read this rather slowly, in an attempt to digest the larger issues surrounding energy production and consumption. Overall, the book did a good job of presenting the economic drivers of fracking. It was surprising to learn that the oil giants were not the ones driving the search for natural gas, but rather a few visionary, ambitious, and well, greedy, wildcatters and the investors holding the purse strings. Not a lot to say about the environmental consequences of fracking, which is what began my interest in learning about the topic, although issues were briefly recapped. The most salient messages I come away with is that the successes of fracking have led to more U.S. energy independence (good); natural gas is cleaner than coal (also good); there are real environmental concerns and a seeming lack of regulation (bad). Most troubling is that the success of fracking and the abundance of domestically produced natural gas and oil comes at the expense of exploring and fully developing truly clean, renewable energy sources. The financial incentives behind solar and wind alone don't seem to be there, and consumers as a whole seem complacent with whatever powers our lives, as long as the price is right. It is definitely a complex issue and I shall continue my exploration.

  • Todd Watson
    2019-01-22 11:06

    You read all the headlines about the downside to fracking, and the environmental concerns, but you don't read much about the perseverance and thoughtful innovation and experimentation that the energy "wildcatters" put into disrupting traditional petroleum extraction practices. This book is kind of like reading about how iTunes went about the disruption of selling recorded music, except it's so compellingly told you can't wait to reach the end and find out how the various characters succeeded, or didn't. Unbelievably, I walked away thinking many of these wildcatters are American heroes, the kind of venture capitalists and disrupters we celebrate in Silicon Valley, only in their case they were focused on finding new ways to suck gas and oil out of the earth. On the other hand, their methods may just prove the energy bridge we may very well need to see ourselves cross over to more sustainable energy resources (in fact, one of the fracking protagonists, George Mitchell, was a longstanding stalwart for sustainable energy, even as he made multiple fortunes figuring out better ways to retrieve natural gas from under the earth. Really great read, especially after hearing so much of the negative side of the fracking story.

  • Mike Moody
    2019-02-03 11:05

    As the title says, this book is primarily a history of five or six prominent players in the shale fracking energy revolution. Some were lifelong wildcatters, others were simply investors interested in the oil and gas industry and the book focuses primarily on them and others to give a history of fracking in the US. The writing is excellent, the story flows smoothly, and the characters are quite colorful. From an Egyptian-born former restaurant owner to a high school educated wildcatter turned billionaire to engineers and geologists, the people described are fascinating as you follow their successes and failures in trying to drill for oil.The author doesn’t focus too much on the technical details of the techniques and technology advances that made cost effective shale drilling possible, but he does give enough of an overview to give the reader an idea of what it took to make the energy revolution possible. The main action in the book starts in the early 1990s and ends in 2014. This is a great read and recommended for anyone interested in shale energy or just enjoys interesting character-driven nonfiction.

  • Topher
    2019-02-10 12:08

    Given that I'm a PhD geologist, and teach a large number of students who plan to go into industry, I'm a bit surprised that it was a Motley Fool podcast that brought this book to my attention. I'm glad that it did though, as this is an excellently written history of the major companies involved in the fracking revolution.It should be noted that the science behind what's happening is only briefly touched upon, as is the extent of the controversy surrounding fracking on the east coast. In general, the author takes a neutral stance, though the writing style does give it a pro-fracking flavor at times.My only real complaint is that at times you could tell which portions of the text were previously published in magazine articles etc, thanks to the presence of "cliff-hangers" and other asides concerning impending doom.I liked this enough that I will likely track down the author's book about the housing crisis (The Greatest Trade Ever) to see how it compares to The Big Short.

  • Matt
    2019-02-02 05:09

    In the past year I've read three books by business writers about businessmen: The Powerhouse by Steve Levine, Console Wars by Blake Harris, and this.All hagiographies written in the style of Michael Lewis. Console Wars is kind enough to namedrop Moneyball in the synopsis.Publishers seem to think any business writer can write like Lewis can, and now every business book needs "characters." This is not something business writers appear capable of, and the result is books overlong with biographic detail of people you'll forget entirely a week after finishing the book. The old "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" thing. Perhaps this is too cynical, but the style of these books business, mixed with the type of access granted to business writers, makes these books read an awful lot like vanity projects.

  • Ted Haussman
    2019-01-23 04:23

    Been awile since I rated a non-fiction book at 5 stars but this one was awesome. true, it covers a subject area that interests me a lot, but thought it was very well-researched and written. It did a great job discussing the race to develop fracking and horizontal drilling technologies and then grab promising drilling acreage while the complacent energy giants were sleeping or scoffing at the revolution in the making. It also does a nice job addressing some of the environmental arguments and touches upon the danger of the now disspiated "peak oil" fears of 10 years ago -- i.e., that we may become so used to business-as-usual with abundant natural gas and oil that it will stymie the push to alternative energy. The book gave me a lot of hope though because it shows what people can do when pushed to the brink of a complex problem and how solutions can be found.

  • Kunal
    2019-02-10 08:14

    A 'fracking' enjoyable read. As expected most of the book covers the story of how the misfits who believed that a shale oil and gas revolution succeeded (all to some degree) The story is journalistic whilst incorporating biographical openings for all the book major players. The level of research done here looks very comprehensive if you believe all of the detail with regards to the conversations minute information presented within the book. The book tells a story that has it's root deep in the american dream i.e. rags to riches, entrepreneurial hardship and getting back up if you get knocked down (many times in some cases) Well worth reading if you have even the slightest interest in oil, gas or just a simple story of how some men defied the notion that energy 'Made in the USA' was a thing of the past.

  • Evan
    2019-01-30 11:21

    This was a well written and interesting book. I watch a lot of Mad Money and read the wall street journal, so I was familiar with much of the story. I also experienced some of the horrible ride on the Cheasapeake stock rollercoaster. ;) I found the beginning of the story, the part about George Mitchell, to be the most interesting. I had not heard it before, and it detailed the history of fracking. I also liked the parts on Continental Energy. I thought the book was a little heavy on McClenndon and Ward, but before this, I never realized how instrumental they were in the natural gas revolution. If you are interested in energy, the stock market and fossil fuels, you will enjoy this book.

  • Claireoberry
    2019-02-09 05:24

    Very engaging and informative inside information. I live in the Barnett Shale and know another story exists that was not covered ..... The lies and deception of many, if not most operators ...... The downside for powerless landowners ...... The environmental hazards that have very little regulation. I agree with George Mitchell that natural gas is the only solution till we are weaned off fossil fuels to renewables. Also the geo- political aspect was new information and an eye-opener. If you have strong opinions on either side of the fracking issue, this is a good starting point.

  • Rob Mills
    2019-01-28 05:02

    A fun read as the author goes into the history of some of the most famous wildcatters out there and walks through the seminal events of their personal lives and careers. Some very interesting stories, as one might suspect, and the book goes through the boom & bust of the shale revolution.

  • Stefan
    2019-01-19 09:07

    Nice inside look at the incredible risk it takes to become extremely wealthy for those interested in business and investing.

  • Nicholas Zhang
    2019-01-18 10:09

    A very compelling story of the wildcatters behind the shale oil & gas revolution. It helped me understand the personalities/backdrop/culture/spirit that has shaped these E&Ps and the whole energy industry, which I cannot get from the research reports. When people refer to a comp sheet of E&P stocks, trying to understand the dispersion in the valuation multiples, management premium/discount is one that is least explained yet possibly most important.My four takeaways,1. " Hold on to it" Chevron could have found the fracking recipe, too. When Mitchell Energy was doing all the tests in Barnett in late 1990s, Chevron was also trying in the Eagle Ford. Yet the big oil turned out much less persistent than the smaller independent. However, George Mitchell did not hold on till the end either. He sold the company "too early" to Devon after the initial fracking success, leaving the breakthrough opportunity for Devon through combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.2. "Against the conventional wisdom". Such cases occurred multiple times in the book: (A) invention of the hydraulic fracturing: experts warned of water, yet young Nick Steinsberger succeeded in using water to frack. (B) searching for oil: big oil rejected the possibility of more big reserve in the US, yet independents found the best place to drill is their backyards. (C) Energy business model: while the wallstreet cheered Enron's sexy trading business, Mark Papa held the belief in the oil exploration business. (C) Continental Resources: while the industry believed Barnett is the hottest place to drill, Continental decided to test the potential in the least favored North Dakota3. "Cursed by their own success". Chesapeake succeeded by the debt financed land acquisition, but was also knocked down by the huge debt burden. McClendon, Ward, Souki were all ousted founders, they succeeded through their wildcatter spirit, yet the flip side of that is greed and big ego. Also, the E&P industry boomed due to the technological success, and then busted due to the same reason: they are just too successful, productive, leading to low commodities prices.4. " Prepare for the macro change/surprise". The divergence of EOG and CHK can attribute to their history, management, culture etc. The macro bet Mark Papa made in 2007 was definitely an important factor: He foresaw the forthcoming gas glut and directed the company towards oily fields. Macro bet can also be wildly wrong: When Souki sought to build the LNG import terminal in early 2000s, the idea was endorsed by Alan Greespan, contracts were signed with Dow, ConocoPhilips, Total, Eni, and some funding came from Blackstone and John Paulson. This demostrated that none of these big names expected the surging domestic gas production, which soon forced the terminal to be exporting, instead of importing.All these relate to the wildcatter spirit, yet relevant to portfolio management as well.A quote from the book (P164) on the wildcatter spirit:"In many ways, the widlcat profession is quintessentially American. It takes a heavy does of self assurance and comfort with risk to bet on what might or might not be far below the surface, well out of sight, as well as unbridled optimism that Americans seem to have in abundance"

  • Ben Horne
    2019-02-02 09:28

    The Frackers was a sensational story. Greg's analysis of how a few dynamic figures revitalized the energy industry was informative. The technology surrounding fracking was fascinating. Also enjoyed Greg's ability to connect specific business events surrounding the leaders and companies to the overall economy. I share Greg's opinion on the ethics of fracking and environmental issues involved that there are two always sides of the coin. Not necessarily a quick read, but provides solid understanding of the oil and gas industry, key players, and this revolutionary time period.

  • Yishen Kuik
    2019-01-23 05:09

    Good history of frackers. Zuckerman is a compelling popular economic historian

  • Ben Silver
    2019-02-03 12:02

    Great read!

  • Feyi Fawehinmi
    2019-02-06 05:02

    A bit repetitive towards the end but a really great read

  • Steve Gupta
    2019-02-07 06:20

    entertainingi recently started working in the bakken and enjoyed the history of exploration, it was well written and well researched

  • Dominic
    2019-02-09 11:23

    listened to this as an audiobook

  • Drtaxsacto
    2019-02-03 07:18

    This is a book about three things - all related. It is a good set of biographical sketches of several of the major figures who developed the current new resources in the US of oil and natural gas which is likely to make us energy independent. Second, it is a discussion of many of the innovations that have allowed this to happen - horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracking (the injection of fluids into most shale formations to extract oil and gas. Finally, it is a story of the big bets that have to be made to develop energy resources.My dad was in the oil business so I knew something about how it works. He was with one of the big oil companies so I only got to hear about the wildcatters. But I did get to meet some of them. And Zuckerman's description about how they think about the world is from my perspective spot on. The group includes people who have a lot of knowledge about geology and some who simply make very smart guesses. These kinds of explorations cost a great deal of money and when they are successful they pay a great deal of money to the wildcatters. One person in the story is in the middle of a divorce settlement battle that might be as large as $8.5 billion to his former wife. The scale of these processes is mind-boggling - with not just capital but how much land is leased for mineral rights and how much water is needed to make fracking possible.There are several surprising things about this revolution. First, if the finds in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania and elsewhere hold up the US would no longer have to rely on imported oil. That has implications for not just our energy usage but could make the middle east a lot less important in our future. Second, as the finds have produced tremendous amounts of natural gas (and as the price per thousand cubic feet has declined or remained constant) we've switched from coal in many of our electrical plants and manufacturing uses. According to one source that might well allow the US to be the first industrialized nation to meet the Kyoto guidelines. (Even though we did not sign them.) Third, the drillers have a mix of optimism and tenacity that is hard to beat - which produces wild swings in their fortunes. At one point, one of the key figures in the book - had a huge margin call which forced him to mostly divest himself of the stock in the company he founded. The most amazing story is of an entrepreneur who helped to finance an LNG import terminal only to discover that the price of LNG would make such a thing uneconomic - so he immediately began to work on an LNG export terminal to get our excesses to China and Europe who need it badly.Zuckerman is not a cheerleader for the Frackers but neither is he a scare monger. Throughout the book he raises questions about the methodology of fracking but also explains that for the most part the fluids injected into the rock are water and sand mostly.At the end there is some solid discussion about the long term implications of this set of practices. This is simply a first rate book.One reviewer suggested the Econtalk podcast with Zuckerman as a substitute ( and indeed if you only want to scratch the surface that is excellent. But if you want to drill deep into the subject - the book - all 400+ pages - is worth the read.

  • Joo Kee
    2019-01-28 05:23

    Interesting read, especially if you are interested on oil and gas. I am not but I find the story fascinating. You learn about the history of the shale and the actual environmental impact (which is not much really). I do feel that the downside of the book is that it is more towards the biography of the major players of the shale game (the title of the book did give a heads up it is about the frack-ERs).I think from a non-fiction, it is a useful read for those who are interested in economy.

  • Susan Walker
    2019-01-22 10:12

    Although not comprehensive, the book offers a vista into the personalities, market dynamics, technological breakthroughs (cursory-providing only superficial understanding) of the fracking revolution. I like that he left the question of environmental impact open and offered only anecdotes and not scientific arguments one way or another. I wanted to read more, as this book opened the subject to more than just a "this is what happened"--and I also want more of what has transpired since the book's publication. Near the end I especially wanted a better understanding of world energy economics and politics--and the next thing I knew that was where he wound up but it felt like volumes could be devoted to that subject alone. All of these issues lacked depth but since I'm a novice it was perfect for me to get an overview. How did he get some of the personal details though? Interesting, when Hamm was invited to the White House along with Buffett and Gates, instead of being recognized as a success story working his way out of the poor home pictured in the book, Obama dismissed his accomplishments with only a comment that we need alternative energy and not this. Takeaways for me: even though I believe in the power of free markets, this book made me feel that the markets are not serving us well here with a mad rush to drill as vast a quantity as possible, especially with the legal framework wherein you lose your lease if you have not drilled within the three to five years. Second takeaway: many energy experts whose daily existence is knee deep in the energy markets miscalculated time and again the projected supply, demand and price of oil or gas AND the investment bankers and private equity investors made both significant moves in the wrong direction (Carl Icahn and Warren Buffett) and also took huge profits (Carl Icahn) largely because they had the tremendous amount of capital needed AND the oil majors felt like big ships which could barely turn around while surrounded by miniature speedboats

  • Curtis
    2019-02-09 04:11

    I am not so sure how 'outrageous' these stories were, however I did enjoy Zuckerman's biographical sketches of each company founder (George Mitchell, Harold Hamm, Aubrey McClendon, Tom Ward, Chariff Souki, etc), as well as the histories of the various companies mentioned (Chesapeake, Continental, Mitchell Energy, Cheniere, etc). Zuckerman also details the perceptions many held about U.S. oil and gas production during the 1990s and early 2000s, where many companies (majors like Chevron, Exxon, Phillips, etc) were looking outside of the U.S. to grow their production and reserves. In stark contrast to today's knowledge of how productive North American shale has been, the industry believed shale to be too costly and unproductive. Zuckerman did a good job highlighting this shift in perception.I would have rated this book 5 stars had it not been for Zuckerman's frequent over dramatization (as is apparent in the title of the book), and his lack of any expanded technical explanation of how hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling actually works (even an appendix would have worked). I think would have helped support his depiction of why so many in the industry were so skeptical of shale production, and why the combination of these two technologies was so successful.Overall, this was a fun read (particularly regarding the Oklahomans: Aubrey McClendon, Tom Ward, and Harold Hamm) and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the fracking boom and the oil and gas industry in general.

  • Tim
    2019-02-07 07:03

    This book follows a handful of American oil and gas entrepreneurs during the period from the late 1990s to 2013. The time frame saw boom and bust in the energy and financial sectors in the USA and, most importantly, the emergence of new techniques for extracting oil and natural gas from shale.I knew very little about the industry before reading the book and learned a good deal. The author not only portrays personalities but also tries to reveal why the successful entrepreneurs succeeded. Throughout the book bankers and investors come and go, enabling entrepreneurs to succeed or shutting them down. The majors (Exxon, Shell, BP, etc.) come across as too slow and too conservative to benefit from domestic opportunity in the USA. Tapping that opportunity helped the USA achieve energy independence.A flaw of the book, to me, involves the constant jumping from one story to the next. This style of story-telling may appeal to some but it does not appeal to me. I would also have liked to see the book carry on to the end of 2015, when oil and natural gas prices collapsed, but a book deals with a finite time frame and this one unfortunately ends before a big collapse in prices. Finally, the author should have devoted more space to the environmental and political issues surrounding fracking. Anyone investing in the onshore energy sector must read this book, if only to understand the personalities behind the companies whose stocks and bonds trade in the markets.