Tyler Priest is an associate professor of history and geography at the University of Iowa. A widely published scholar of energy and environmental history, he is the author of The Offshore Imperative: Shell Oil's Search for Petroleum in the Postwar United States (2007), which won the Geosciences in the Media Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. He also won the American Society for Environmental History's Alice Hamilton Award for his article, "Extraction Not Creation: The History of Offshore Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico," in Enterprise & Society (June 2007). He coedited "Oil in America," a special issue of the Journal of American History (June 2012). From 2000 to 2015, Priest was the chief historian on three interdisciplinary research projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management). These projects documented the growth and expansion of the offshore oil industry along the Gulf Coast and collected 740 audio and transcribed oral histories with people who worked in all aspects of the industry. Priest's expertise on the history of offshore oil has led to government and industry advisory positions and a role as a regular commentator for print, radio, online, and television media. In 2010 he also served as a senior policy analyst on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
Since 2005, the United States has witnessed a spectacular growth in oil and gas production, reversing decades of decline, due to hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." This lecture discusses the technological, geographical, social, and policy aspects of the rise of modern fracking. It brings the story into the present, analyzing the major battles at the state and federal levels over how to regulate this new industry, how the fracking revolution has strengthened American power in the world, and what it means for climate change. The industry's talented if not mad scientists created a technological marvel and changed the course of energy's future at the global level. For many at the local level in the United States, however, the maturing oil and gas creature is not a force for progress, but a scary Frackenstein's Monster. The creature is here to stay. It is too formidable and valuable to kill. The challenge is to make it sociable.