New Dynamics in Fossil Fuel and Renewable Energy for Rural America

In the early 2000s, the United States energy landscape began a transformation driven by a dual boom in the expansion of renewable power installations and the extraction of natural gas and oil from shale plays through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. In this paper, we discuss the multi‐level regulatory context in which these two forms of energy development occur and review how they affect local communities, environment, and infrastructure, as well as government income and spending. In comparing the two, we remark that long‐term employment effects are relatively low for both forms of development, but unconventional fossil energy development has a heightened boom/bust potential with a large influx of workers spending a short amount of time on each well before moving on. Renewable power plants on the other hand can offer a steadier stream of income and tax revenue. Renewable power plants also have longer lasting visual impacts but lower environmental risks than unconventional fossil energy development. Finally, we consider how communities will have to adapt to navigate legacy and infrastructure constraints that accompany the shift from fossil to renewable power generation and from conventional to shale oil and gas resources.

Issue Date:
Jul 03 2017
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
Total Pages:
JEL Codes:
R11; Q20; Q32; Q35

 Record created 2017-07-27, last modified 2017-08-29

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