Unlike crude oil, there are surprisingly few books devoted to the history of natural gas. Charles Blanchard offers a timely business history of an important industry. There are many stories to be told about a resource once considered a byproduct, but today key for meeting energy demand. The Extraction State examines the still evolving technologies of natural gas production, pipeline infrastructure, early and recent pioneers, the role of investors and market hubs, and federal and state agencies that have managed the industry since the earliest gas wells. As U.S. petroleum production from shale continues to change the future of the industry, Blanchard brings a business insider’s perspective to the history of bringing energy to consumers.
The history of the United States of America is also the history of the energy sector. Natural gas provides the fuel that allows us to heat our homes in winter and cool them in summer with the touch of a button or turn of a dial—when the industry runs smoothly. From the oil crisis of the 1970s to the fall of Enron and the California electricity crisis at the turn of the century to contemporary issues of hydraulic fracking, poorly conceived government policies have sometimes left us shivering, stranded, or with significantly lighter wallets. In this expansive narrative, Charles Blanchard traces the rise of natural gas and the regulatory missteps that nearly ruined the market. Beginning in the 1880s, The Extraction State explains how the New Deal regulatory compact came together in the 1920s, even before the Great Depression, and how it fell apart in the 1970s. From there, the book dissects the policies that affect us today, and explores where we might be headed in the near future.
Christopher J. Castaneda is professor of history at California State University, Sacramento. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including: Dedication. Vision. Heart: The CalPERS Story; Keeping the Promise: A History of the California Department of Justice; and Invisible Fuel: Natural and Manufactured Gas in American History, 1800Ð2000.