“This is probably the biggest stimulus we have going,” says Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, a consultant based in Amherst, Mass. Some $145 billion will be spent drilling and completing U.S. wells this year, up from $13 billion in 2000, estimates Spears & Associates Inc., an oil-field market research firm.
Though the energy boom looks like a road to prosperity, it may be a bumpy one. Drilling is disrupting communities in ways that are still unfolding, creating concerns about the costs to local governments for things like road damage. It is also raising fears about potential water contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes from the effects of drilling thousands of new deep wells.
Skeptics warn that individual shale communities could experience an employment boom, followed by a painful bust. Rosy economic models “tell us nothing about what will happen when drilling ends,” warns a May 2011 paper published by Cornell University’s City and Regional Planning Department and funded in part by a foundation opposed to shale drilling.
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