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Institutions and the shale boom


This paper uses the institutional economics of Douglass North to explain three features of the shale boom: why fracking technology emerged in the United States, the rapid increase in production of natural gas in the United States and the uneven response to these new economic opportunities in shale-rich economies. It argues that the institutional matrix of the United States, in particular private ownership of minerals, encouraged experimentation on the barren Texas oil and gas fields, where fracking technology emerged and the rapid transfer of mineral rights to gas companies. Institutional entrepreneurs, namely landmen and lawyers, facilitated contracting between owners of mineral rights and drillers. Private ownership of minerals and an ideology supportive of drilling provide insight into the adoption of regulations that encourage hydraulic fracturing.

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Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
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