Seeing futures now: Emergent US and UK views on shale development, climate change and energy systems

TitleSeeing futures now: Emergent US and UK views on shale development, climate change and energy systems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPartridge, T, Thomas, M, Harthorn, BHerr, Pidgeon, N, Hasell, A, Stevenson, L, Enders, C

Shale development - extraction of oil and gas from shale rock formations using hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' - has become a critical focus for energy debates in the US and UK. In both countries, potential industry expansion into new areas for shale extraction is expected to produce a wide range of environmental and social impacts and to change the configuration of future energy systems. To engage with emergent views on these complex, multi-scale issues, we held a series of day-long deliberation workshops (two in the US and two in the UK) designed and facilitated for diverse groups of people to discuss a range of possible consequences and meanings of shale development. Amid nuanced differences between and within national contexts, notable similarities in views were tracked across all four workshops. Concerns in common were not limited to specific risks such as water contamination. Participants also questioned whether shale development was compatible with their visions for and concerns about the longer-term future - including views on impacts and causes of climate change, societal dependency on fossil fuels, development of alternative energy technologies, the perceived short-term objectives of government and industry agencies, and obligations to act responsibly toward future generations. Extending prior qualitative research on shale development and on energy systems change, this research brings open-ended and cross-national public deliberation inquiry to bear on broader issues of climate change, responsibility, and ideas about how shale development might undermine or reinforce the energy systems that people consider important for the future. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.