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The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A…

The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A History from the First Discovery… (edition 2012)

by David A. Waples

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Title:The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A History from the First Discovery to the Tapping of the Marcellus Shale, 2d ed.
Authors:David A. Waples
Info:Mcfarland (2012), Edition: 2 Revised, Paperback, 377 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A History from the First Discovery to the Tapping of the Marcellus Shale, 2d ed. by David A. Waples



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I knew very little about natural gas, less about the industry, and only a little bit about fracking before reading this book. Having finished it, I can say that I know a little bit more about all of those things.

It should be noted that the author works for National Fuel Gas, a natural gas company, and from what I can tell is resolutely loyal to the industry. Holding this against him and his book, which I do not, would be pointless. However, I feel that the reader ought to know that he is reading a book written from the perspective of the industry, if for no other reason than to let him know that this is one side of the story.

On to the actual book.

Chapters one through seven cover history and a wide variety of topics related to natural gas - certain technological problems and how they were solved over time, geological facts, early attempts at regulation and corporate behavior, etc. Chapters eight and nine are more about gas policy, government regulation, and what the author believes to be the virtues of the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas-rich rock formation that underlies a significant portion of the northeastern United States.

As one might expect from a historical survey, it starts at the beginning with the earliest known accounts of natural gas and phenomena that might have involved natural gas. I found the earliest parts of the history as it pertained to the United States fascinating because I had known nothing at all about them prior to reading this book. For instance, learning that natural gas was originally an unwanted byproduct and that the real prize was brine was completely unexpected. This book has a lot of little tidbits like that scattered throughout, even in the chapters that are more about natural gas policy and less about history.

Certain sections of the book drag for what seem like ages, however - mostly the portions that talk about corporate acquisitions. While I was interested to hear about Rockefeller and Standard Oil and how they influenced the natural gas trade, I was less enthused about page after page of acronyms representing corporations buying each other out and consolidating in various states. Still, I got through it.

I approached chapters eight and nine with an open mind and a notepad, as they are the most clearly political and potentially touchy section of the book. Chapter eight mostly covers government regulation and chapter nine covers fracking and the future of the gas industry. I am not and never have been in the industry - as such I do not have adequate experience or knowledge to argue the finer technical points made in the book. However, I took a few notes and will be doing some more research to find alternate opinions. It is difficult for me to talk about these chapters without introducing opinions unrelated to the book being reviewed, so I will refrain.

Despite that, I do not believe it is much of a stretch to say that the author is solidly in favor of fracking and gives a large amount of detail covering the fracking process and the variety of environmental regulations governing the process. It is an effort to show that fracking is relatively safe and relatively harmless - according to the text, most incidents related to fracking have more to do with hauling companies and other non-industry factors than the drilling or fracturing process itself.

In the end, I would describe this book as seven chapters of informative and interesting history and two chapters of potentially volatile current affairs material. There is a very useful glossary of industry jargon as well, which I appreciated. It appears to be a good broad overview written from the industry's perspective - informative but not earth-shatteringly revelatory. ( )
  Matthew1982 | May 14, 2013 |
This comprehensive look at the history of natural gas in Appalachia covers early topics like the first discovery of gas in the area and the first gas lamps, and then moves into information on the Marcellus Shale , a formation reaching horizontally across the state of New York and the northern Appalachians through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and a small part of northwestern Virginia. The author, David Waples, is a communications manager for a natural gas utility, and certainly downplays the environmental impacts of burning natural gas and of hydraulic fracturing, though the breadth of his history here is quite impressive. Recommended for those reading for knowledge on the history of the industry in a general sense, rather than knowledge about the environmental issues associated with natural gas. ( )
  lewisbookreviews | Apr 28, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm grateful to have received a copy of this through LibraryThing's early reviewer program.

This book contains a lot of facts. Indeed, it is hard to imagine anyone writing a more comprehensive history of natural gas in Appalachia. It's not obvious to me who would read this for pleasure, but it does seem a book that college libraries in Appalachia, and libraries with strong holdings on energy, should own. The apparatus of footnotes and bibliography are excellent. One striking omission from most of the book is any discussion of environmental sustainability or environmental impacts of producing, transporting, and consuming gas. I say 'most', because the last chapter, on shale gas, written for the second edition, discusses environmental issues at length. But for the rest of the book, I could only find environmental concerns mentioned in passing, as external forces that constrained the profitability of gas companies. That suggests a worldview that sees environmental concerns as an add-on to, rather than an integrated part of, the history of an industry.

As an environmentalist working to limit the harmful impacts of fracking in North Carolina, I approached the last chapter of the book - on the ongoing shale gas boom -- with a distinct perspective. The author is generally sympathetic to fracking, and introduces all concepts related to fracking using industry frames (for example, describing the toxic chemicals used in the fracking process as a tiny percentage of the volume of fluid, rather than describing the large absolute volumes used). That said, the tone is relatively neutral and free of contempt, and he works hard to present both sides of every controversial aspect of fracking (usually the environmental critique first, followed by the industry rebuttal, rather than the other way around). Thus, the last chapter is a solid resource for anyone wanting to read a pro-industry take on the shale-gas revolution. The author acknowledges a number of accidents and spills associated with fracking in the Marcellus, but views these as isolated problems, not a basis for a systematic rejection of the technology. I think the author pays insufficient attention to the consistent, programmatic failures of state regulatory schemes - and the lack of safe, non-externalized disposal options for wastes -- but it is frankly difficult to imagine any author who could write the rest of this book who would come out in a different place on these points. One of the only really glaring omissions in the final chapter is its failure to address the future of shale gas in the context of real, ongoing climate change. In a few years, that omission is likely to make the book feel quaint; but it may still be the definitive regional history of the industry for the foreseeable future. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jan 5, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Given the importance of natural gas in the burgeoning economic recovery in the US, this book provides an interesting overview of how the industry developed. While it would not provide the technical or financial information that a professional investor would require to make an investing decision, it is a fun read. ( )
  eireannach | Jan 2, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An extremely comprehensive book that is perfectly subtitled: "A History from the First Discovery to the Maturity of the Industry." Not only does the reader get a full understanding of the natural gas industry, they get a sense of the lifestyle and characters who pioneered this industry. Filled with specific dates, names, places, and examples, this book is further complemented by several photographs of the historic events described. Interestingly, the reader will come away with a slightly better understanding of how oil played in the game. Additionally, it teaches how major characters, and not-so-major characters, in history were involved with oil and gas and the effect it had on the nation's growth.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in today's energy consumption. While the title may lend the reader to believe this to be a dry history read, it ends up holding one's attention very well. ( )
  Sovranty | Dec 17, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786470003, Paperback)

The large scale, practical uses of natural gas were initially introduced by innovators Joseph Pew and George Westinghouse for the steel and glass industries in Pittsburgh, and local gas companies evolved from individual wells to an interstate supply network acquired by Rockefeller's Standard Oil interests. Natural gas is now a prevalent part of American markets with the production from the Marcellus shale and is filling the critical void left by a lack of new coal, oil, and nuclear power facilities. This vital American enterprise began in the Appalachian states as an accidental and underestimated byproduct of the oil rush of 1859. This book explores the evolution and significance of the natural gas industry to the present day.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The large scale, practical uses of natural gas were initially introduced by innovators Joseph Pew and George Westinghouse for the steel and glass industries in Pittsburgh, and local gas companies evolved from individual wells to an interstate supply network acquired by Rockefeller's Standard Oil interests. This book explores the evolution and significance of the natural gas industry"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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An edition of this book was published by McFarland.

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