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A comparative study of water-related issues in the context of hydraulic fracturing in Texas and Spain

Buono, Regina M., Mayor, Beatriz, López-Gunn, Elena
Environmental science & policy 2017
carbon, chemical composition, decision making, energy, environmental science, hydraulic fracturing, issues and policy, natural gas, nuclear power, public opinion, risk, shale gas, water security, Spain, Texas
Shale gas development has been heralded as a game changer that has had, and will continue to have, repercussions for energy scenarios around the world, and natural gas has been hailed as the transition fuel to a low carbon future. Shale gas production—made feasible and economical by advances in hydraulic fracturing—offers a solution in the face of increased demand, instability in key producing regions, and societal aversion to the risks of nuclear energy. This “golden future,” however, has come into conflict with increasing concerns over water. This paper examines policy and regulatory frameworks around hydraulic fracturing in Texas and Spain in order to consider the trade-offs—particularly at the expense of water security—that may occur as decision-makers pursue improvements in energy security. We compare regulatory, institutional, and cultural contexts in order to understand and evaluate the robustness of these frameworks to prevent the reduction in water security as a consequence of the pursuit of energy security. Paucity of data is discussed. We also consider questions such as disclosure of information to the public about water use or the chemical composition of frac fluids and public opinion about hydraulic fracturing. Lessons are drawn that may assist policymakers who seek to guarantee water security while pursuing energy security.