The Comparative Politics of Fracking: Networks and Framing in the US and Europe
26 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
The extraction of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) has become one of the most important but also most controversial methods of increasing energy supply this century. While the benefits and risks of fracking are similar in the US and Europe, the process has developed in sharply different ways. Many structural reasons for this difference have been identified, but this study focuses on the role of political actors and agency. Drawing on policy network and framing literature, the paper constructs a framework that is mindful of structural conditions, but pays particular attention to the complex set of actors, interests and images shaping shale gas extraction. It identifies competing (pro- and anti- fracking) networks in the US and Europe, and explores the frames they use to mobilize the public and policymakers. The study finds that while networks on both sides of the Atlantic include similar members and employ similar frames, their ability to mobilize support and shape the fracking agenda varies, as does the resonance of their frames. Explanations for that variance are found in the character of the network, their framing strategies, and how both are shaped by the structural conditions in which networks operate.
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