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Public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil in the United States and Canada

Thomas, Merryn ORCID:, Pidgeon, Nicholas ORCID:, Evensen, Darrick ORCID:, Partridge, Tristan, Hasell, Ariel, Enders, Catherine, Harthorn, Barbara Herr and Bradshaw, Michael 2017. Public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil in the United States and Canada. WIRES Climate Change 8 (3) , e450. 10.1002/wcc.450

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The US and Canada have been at the forefront of shale oil and gas development via hydraulic fracturing. Understanding public perceptions is important given the role that they may play in future policy decisions in both North America and other parts of the world where shale development is at a much earlier stage. We review 58 articles pertaining to perceptions, published between 2009 and 2015. Studies report mixed levels of awareness of shale operations, tending towards higher awareness in areas with existing development. While individuals tend to have negative associations with the term ‘fracking’, views on shale development are mixed as to whether benefits outweigh risks or vice versa: perceived benefits tend to be economic (e.g., job creation, boosts to local economies) and risks more commonly environmental and/or social (e.g., impacts on water, increased traffic). Some papers point to ethical issues (e.g., inequitable risk/benefit distribution, procedural justice) and widespread distrust of responsible parties, stemming from perceived unfairness, heavy-handed corporate tactics, and lack of transparency. These findings point to the contested, political character of much of the debate about hydraulic fracturing, and raise questions of what constitutes ‘acceptable’ risk in this context. We compare these results with research emerging in the UK over the same period. Future research should focus on nuanced inquiry, a range of methodologies and explore perceptions in varied social and geographical contexts. Both this and future research hold the potential to enhance public debates and decisions about shale gas and oil development.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of the following article: Thomas, M., Pidgeon, N., Evensen, D., Partridge, T., Hasell, A., Enders, C., Herr Harthorn, B. and Bradshaw, M. (2017), Public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and oil in the United States and Canada. WIREs Clim Change, e450. , which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Wiley Self-Archiving Policy
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1757-7780
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 November 2016
Date of Acceptance: 31 October 2016
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 13:16

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