News & Views | Published:


An expanding footprint

The shale gas revolution has led to a boom in construction of shale oil and gas wells in recent years. New research offers a more accurate accounting of its growing land-use footprint.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    US Natural Gas Number of Gas and Gas Condensate Wells (EIA, Washington, DC, 2017).

  2. 2.

    Balthrop, A. T. & Hawley, Z. Energy Econ. 61, 351–362 (2017).

  3. 3.

    Muehlenbachs, L., Spiller, E. & Timmins, C. Am. Econ. Rev. 105, 3633–3659 (2015).

  4. 4.

    Brittingham, M. C., Maloney, K. O., Farag, A. M., Harper, D. D. & Bowen, Z. H. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 11034–11047 (2014).

  5. 5.

    Jordaan, S. M. et al. Nat. Energy. doi:10.1007/s41560-017-0004-0 (2017).

  6. 6.

    Annual Energy Outlook 2017 (EIA, Washington, DC, 2017).

  7. 7.

    Lawler, J. J., Ruesch, A. S., Olden, J. D. & McRae, B. H. Ecol. Lett. 16, 1014–1022 (2013).

  8. 8.

    Milt, A. W., Gagnolet, T. & Armsworth, P. R. Environ. Manag. 57, 21–30 (2016).

  9. 9.

    Olmstead, S. M., Muehlenbachs, L. A., Shih, J. S., Chu, Z. & Krupnick, A. J. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 4962–4967 (2013).

  10. 10.

    McDonald, R. I., Fargione, J., Kiesecker, J., Miller, W. M. & Powell, J. PLoS One 4, e6802 (2009).

  11. 11.

    Fthenakis, V. & Kim, H. C. Renew. Sust. Energy Rev. 13, 1465–1474 (2009).

  12. 12.

    Ong, S., Campbell, C., Denholm, P., Margolis, R. & Heath, G. Land-Use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States (National Renewable Energy Lab, Colorado, 2013).

  13. 13.

    Denholm, P., Hand, M., Jackson, M. & Ong, S. Land-Use Requirements of Modern Wind Plants in the United States (National Renewable Energy Lab, Colorado, 2009).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Joseph Fargione.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark
Fig. 1: The production of electricity from natural-gas uses land from the wells where it is produced through to the power plants where it is converted to electricity.