Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World : Planet Money Third of five episodes. The Planet Money oil faces a test, we sell it, and we meet the man who set off the fracking boom in America.
NPR logo

Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490375230/490404377" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World

Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World

Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/490375230/490404377" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Planet Money oil gets put to a test by a lively trucker with his own centrifuge. He also shows us how to stay clean on a dirty job site. At the end of the episode, we make a deal to sell our oil with a middleman.

We also go visit the well that changed the oil world: S. H. Griffin Estate #4. That's where slickwater fracking began.

Fracking has become a charged word. It's a boon and a curse depending on how you look at it. Fracking has unlocked incredible amounts of oil and gas, all but ended the threat of scarcity. It has led to an American petroleum boom, lowered the price of oil and gas around the world. Fracking has also raises a new level of environmental fear. It has been linked to earthquakes and toxic tap water. The cheaper prices it caused mean it's all that much harder to move beyond fossil fuels, making it harder to fight climate change.

The discovery of fracking as we know it was also an accident.

For years and years, the giants of the oil industry ignored oil and gas that was trapped in hard shale rock all around the United States. It was just too expensive to extract the petroleum from shale. So much so, that the headquarters of Exxon sits right on top of a huge deposit, but the company still looked offshore and overseas instead of trying to tame the underground shale right in their backyard.

On today's episode, we meet the mild-mannered oil engineer who unlocked the secret to making fracking work like it does today, little by little, and largely by accident. We ask him how he feels about changing the world, what he regrets, what makes him proud, how it feels to change the world.

Find the rest of the five part series here. And some photos here.

Music: "Food Court Epiphanies" and "Damn, Son." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.