Mr. Sernovitz’s book is structured as a series of essays rather than built around a single propulsive narrative. This works especially well as he tiptoes through the arguments linking our consumption of fossil fuels to climate change. He is keen to avoid the theological ravings he hears on both sides ... It is refreshing to have such contentious issues sieved through Mr. Sernovitz’s inquisitive mind, balancing the most pessimistic and optimistic visions of change.
In many ways The Green and the Black is well balanced, reporting accurately and entertainingly on the attitudes and beliefs of oilmen and environmentalists about fracking and the oil industry in general. Strikingly, however, Sernovitz believes that the oil and gas business has changed fundamentally over the past two decades, and mostly in ways that benefit the fight against climate change. The reason, he argues, is fracking ... Sernovitz says that 'the ability to extract oil and gas from shale...has domesticated, for everyone on Earth, the snarling threat of destructive oil and gas prices,' by which he means, in part, that the propensity of the US to go to war when its oil supply is threatened has been diminished by the cheap domestic oil provided by fracking. Just how true this will be in the future is unclear.
The Green and the Black is an argument for fracking that attempts a middle way between two contradictory but inescapable facts: that global warming demands a shift away from fossil fuels, and that the project of raising living standards for a growing population requires a major increase in energy production ... Sernovitz, a well-meaning supporter of Obama’s environmental program, does not dismiss the many offenses that have tarnished the oil and gas industry’s reputation: their secrecy and deceit in perpetuating climate change denial; the catastrophic spills, including Deepwater Horizon; or the alleged connection between Shell and the killing of Nigerian activists. He also, to his credit, acknowledges the many issues around fracking that have turned off many Americans.
Sernovitz, a longtime oil industry expert (and the author of two novels whose modest success drove him back into employment in oil), brings a lively eye to the field of fracking — or, more properly, hydraulic fracturing in shale rock...He quotes Tolstoy, who is seldom heard from in energy books, on whether momentous events rise from individuals or from larger forces. (Tolstoy said forces; Sernovitz leans toward individuals.) But he observes that there was no single eureka moment in the shale revolution, and that the revolution may not be over.