“It is refreshing to have such contentious issues sieved through Mr. Sernovitz’s inquisitive mind, balancing the most pessimistic and optimistic visions of change... This book is ultimately a call for us to trust our native spirit of enterprise: The very ingenuity that led to America’s shale boom will allow us to meet the challenges that it has thrown up.”
— Philip Delves Broughton, The Wall Street Journal
“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.”
— Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books
“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”
— Matthew Wald, The New York Times
“Is it possible for a political liberal to support fracking? Absolutely, insists Gary Sernovitz, a private equity oil investor, novelist, and author of perhaps the most engaging book published so far on the subject… Sernovitz may not be able to reconcile hardcore green and black perspectives on one of the most contentious subjects in American environmental politics. But he has staked out important middle ground for those seeking ethical and practical alternatives to the slogans of ‘drill, baby, drill’ and ‘leave it in the ground.’”
— Tyler Priest, H-Net
"A self-professed “liberal oilman,” Sernovitz is well qualified for the task. He is an engaging writer with an irrepressible sense of humor… His book is like a mash-up of The Daily Show and a National Geographic special… There is more of interest in this book than a short review can cover... If you want to dig into the intriguing issues powering the energy revolution, then you definitely should read The Green and the Black."
— David Godshalk, Urban Land
"“Gary Sernovitz’s in-depth examination of the shale revolution, thoroughly researched and thoughtfully presented, fills a need that has too-long gone unfilled… I came to this book with an expectation that it would be just another specimen of what H.L. Mencken disdainfully called “the However School of Journalism.” And while it’s true that the author stands in the middle somewhat—and being in the middle is not a place for advocacy—I can’t accuse the author, in the end, of being too pat in his conclusions, which often happens when writers play the middle....I can’t imagine a book more instructive for our side than this one, if understanding the issues and the industry is one’s objective. More, this book is just a great high-level picture of where we are and how we got here.”
— Jesse Mullins, Permian Basin Oil and Gas Magazine
"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. No doubt this is a worthy project—if anything, it is the project for ushering mankind into a sustainable future—and Sernovitz’s attempt is thoughtful and entertaining."
— Audrea Lim, The New Republic
"This is an excellent, informative and well-written book about the shale revolution in North Dakota’s Bakken formation as well as other shale formations in the U.S. The author writes with a sense of humor, which helps make this such a good read, one that is hard to put down."
— Robert Wefald, The Bismarck Tribune
"[The Green and the Black] should be on the top of the reading list for everyone in the industry."
— Jeff Share, Pipeline and Gas Journal
"A much-maligned energy technology gets a thorough vetting in this sharp-eyed, wised-up primer... Sernovitz revels in the entertainment value of the fracking boom, with its manic drill-or-die entrepreneurs, dogged engineers steadily improving the art, euphoric land rushes, and frantic retreats. He has pointed opinions and a sardonic wit, but his evenhanded treatment—he discloses his own biases and stake in the industry—debunks both the hype and the panic. Sernovitz’s deep insider’s knowledge and scintillating prose make this one of the best treatments of this very contentious subject."
— Publishers Weekly
"... Sernovitz, who writes with flair, humor, and assurance, includes some recent history of the industry, some big personalities, a little technology and geology, arguments of environmentalists (the “Green” of the title) and of oilmen (“Black”), and a wealth of statistics. While the bulk of the book is essentially a song of praise for the shale revolution, the final chapter, “Conclusions,” indicates that there are still problems to be solved and questions to be answered. An insider’s cheerful, energetic examination of an industry that has changed dramatically in the last decade..."
— Kirkus Reviews
Articles and More
"... the equivalency [Sernovitz] draws—between everyday ethical voids, the way most of us ignore them—engenders an odd, counterintuitive sympathy. The effect is not to vindicate the continued production of fossil fuels—Sernovitz actually comes pretty close here to admitting that it might not ultimately be such a great idea—but to place it on a continuum of compromises from which few can claim innocence. Most of us, after all, are forever choosing comfort, convenience, and stability, even when it means forsaking abstract passions, like Fair Trade standards, composting, or, for that matter, writing fiction.
— Chris Pomorski, "n+1's Favorite Fracker," Tablet
“Across the broad spectrum of American writers, there's simply no one else quite like Gary Sernovitz, at once a brilliant novelist, hilarious cultural critic, energy-industry insider, and self-described 'liberal oilman.' (Imagine Saul Bellow's giant ecstatic heart transplanted into T. Boone Pickens, and you're getting warm.) This has to be one of the most searching, literate, and funniest books about American energy ever written, and it will usefully complicate even one's most zealous certainties about fossil fuels.”
— Tom Bissell, Author of Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve
"Gary Sernovitz has written a mini-masterpiece about an American-born technology that has the continuing potential to revolutionize the world of energy economics and bring about social and political challenges and opportunities for many decades. His style is intelligent, balanced with regard to highlighting competing views of each major topic, and technically and economically illuminating. Everyone in America should read Chapter 11. If you don't necessarily agree with every claim the author makes, you will nonetheless find the book incredibly informative, well-researched, and witty."
— Jim Hackett, Former Chairman and CEO, Anadarko Petroleum
"Gary Sernovitz is a unique figure in American letters. A talented novelist (his The Contrarians should be read alongside Liar's Poker as an introduction to the world of the American investment bank), he is also a private equity investor, specializing in the oil sector. He is, finally, a person of conscience. His account here of the shale revolution of the past decade is funny, informed, and unsparing. You may not share his affection for natural gas, or accept his case for fracking, but if you are opposed to these technologies - and you should be - it's important to understand the other side."
— Keith Gessen
"[The Green and the Black] provides a comprehensive, balanced view of the far-reaching impact of the U.S. shale revolution."
— Mark Papa, Former Chairman and CEO, EOG Resources
“As a novelist-turned-oilman, Gary Sernovitz is uniquely equipped to introduce the general reader to the complexities of the oil industry. Erudite, conversational, and brimming with vivid descriptions and helpful analogies, The Green and the Black informs and expands the contemporary debate around fracking and fossil fuels.”
— Kate Bolick, Author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own
About The Green and the Black
Gary Sernovitz leads a double life. A typical New York liberal, he is also an oilman - a fact his left-leaning friends let slide until the word "fracking" entered popular parlance. "How can you frack?" they suddenly demanded, aghast. But for Sernovitz, the real question is, "What happens if we don't?"
Fracking has become a four-letter word to environmentalists. But most people don't know what it means. In his fast-paced, funny, and lively book, Sernovitz explains the reality of fracking: what it is, how it can be made safer, and how the oil business works.
He also tells the bigger story. Fracking was just one part of a shale revolution that shocked our assumptions about fueling America's future. The revolution has transformed the world with consequences for the oil industry, investors, environmentalists, political leaders, and anyone who lives in areas shaped by the shales, uses fossil fuels, or cares about the climate—in short, everyone. Thanks to American engineers' oilfield innovations, the United States is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions, has sparked a potential manufacturing renaissance, and may soon eliminate its dependence on foreign energy. Once again the largest oil and gas producer in the world, America has altered its balance of power with Russia and the Middle East.
Yet the shale revolution has also caused local disruptions and pollution. It has prolonged the world's use of fossil fuels. Is there any way to reconcile the costs with the benefits of fracking?
To do so, we must start by understanding fracking and the shale revolution in their totality. The Green and the Black bridges the gap in America's energy education. With an insider's firsthand knowledge and unprecedented clarity, Sernovitz introduces readers to the shales—a history-upturning "Internet of oil"—tells the stories of the shale revolution's essential characters, and addresses all the central controversies. To capture the economic, political, and environmental prizes, we need to adopt a balanced, informed perspective. We need to take the green with the black. Where we go from there is up to us.