Speeding Safe Shale-gas Production

  • Prosperity
  • 2012

In 2012, two major philanthropists—oil-and-gas pioneer George Mitchell and Wall Street entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg—announced a joint effort by their foundations to encourage safe and efficient production of natural gas via shale fracking. They proposed to head off problems through “common-sense” state rules and voluntary adoption of best practices by the industry. The two foundations put up millions of dollars for efforts to improve fracking by minimizing water concerns, reducing methane leaks, optimizing well construction, disclosing chemical usage, and reducing local impacts on roads, land, and communities.

In 2013, a related collaboration of philanthropic organizations, oil and gas companies, and environmental groups established a Center for Sustainable Shale Development. It set 15 voluntary standards for improving shale-gas production in the Appalachian region, and encourages drilling companies to earn certificates of operational excellence by meeting criteria monitored by an independent auditor. It is working with states to encourage sensible rules that will avoid environmental problems which could damage public support for hydraulic fracturing. The significance of these philanthropic assists can be seen against the fact that fracking has become one of the most consequential economic, environmental, and national-security innovations of our time—turning the U.S. into the world’s largest gas producer in 2010, and the world’s largest oil producer in 2013.