Debating Unconventional Energy: Social, Political, and Economic Implications

Kate J. Neville, Jennifer Baka, Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Karen Bakker, Stefan Andreasson, Avner Vengosh, Alvin Lin, Jewellord Nem Singh, Erika Weinthal

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21 Citations (Scopus)


The extraction of unconventional oil and gas—from shale rocks, tight sand, and coalbed formations—is shifting the geographies of fossil fuel production, with complex consequences. Following on the natural science survey of the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing (Jackson et al. 2014), this review examines social science literature on unconventional energy. After an overview of the rise of unconventional energy, the review examines energy economics and geopolitics, community mobilization, and state and private regulatory responses. Unconventional energy requires differing frames of analysis than conventional energy because of three distinct characteristics: increased drilling density; low-carbon and “clean” energy narratives of natural gas; and differing ownership and royalty structures. This review points to the need for an interdisciplinary approach to the resulting dynamic, multi-level web of relationships that implicate land, water, food, and climate. Further, the review highlights how scholarship on unconventional energy informs the broader energy landscape and contested energy futures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-266
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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    Neville, K. J., Baka, J., Gamper-Rabindran, S., Bakker, K., Andreasson, S., Vengosh, A., Lin, A., Nem Singh, J., & Weinthal, E. (2017). Debating Unconventional Energy: Social, Political, and Economic Implications. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 42, 241-266.