The Green and the Black


Gary Sernovitz, St. Martin’s, 280 pages, $27.99.

We are in the midst of an energy revolution, although not the one that utopians expected — with solar and wind energy too cheap and plentiful to meter, fuel cells humming in every basement, cars immaculately zipping along on hydrogen. For the time being, we have a fossil fuel glut. So observes Gary Sernovitz in “The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight over Fracking and the Future of Energy.” Sernovitz, a longtime oil industry expert, brings a lively eye to the field of fracking. Does fracking lead to natural gas in drinking water? Sernovitz stands Manhattan upright as a yardstick, with Harlem as “the heavens” and the Battery deep underground. A well started at 60th Street, representing ground level, would descend straight along Lexington to 30th Street and then begin bending westward, with horizontal drilling at 27th Street. The fracking would take place only between 26th and 28th streets, leaving water between 58th and 60th, standard aquifer depth, uncontaminated. So, in a word, no. But fracking certainly has social impacts on rural communities. “A bunch of roughnecks — dudes who happily call themselves roughnecks — living alone in cheap motels and man camps is probably not going to lead to more book clubs. It’s going to lead to more fistfights, more teenage pregnancies, more and better drugs,” Sernovitz writes. He quotes Tolstoy on whether momentous events rise from individuals or from larger forces. (Tolstoy said forces; Sernovitz leans toward individuals.)