Emory Law Journal


The early twenty-first century has witnessed a boom in oil and natural gas production that promises to turn the United States into a new form of petrostate. This boom raises various questions that scholars have begun to explore, including questions of risk governance, federalism, and export policy. Relatively neglected, however, have been questions of why the technological revolution behind the boom occurred and what this revolution teaches about innovation theory and policy. The boom in U.S. shale gas production reflected long-gestating infrastructure developments, a convergence of technological advances, government-sponsored research and development, the presence or absence of intellectual property rights, rights in tangible assets such as land and minerals, and tax and regulatory relief. Consequently, the story behind the boom reaches far beyond the risk-taking and persistence of George Mitchell, whose independent production company achieved pioneering success with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Texas¿ Barnett Shale. Indeed, the broader story demonstrates how a blend of distinct policy levers, reasonably adjusted over time, can combine to foster a diverse innovation ecosystem that provides a robust platform for game-changing innovation.