The Business of Fracking and Corporate Power

Elizabeth Pines
Accounting, 2016

Research Paper: 


As drilling for natural gas increases through a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, public scrutiny has sharpened and visibility of oil and gas companies has increased. This visibility has drawn both support and criticism from various stakeholders, including environmentalists, scientists, politicians, citizens, corporations, and investors. A number of key players exist in the fracking industry, ranging from multinational corporations to national and regional companies. This paper will examine some of the largest drillers in the country, their trade associations, the ways in which they disclose risks of fracking to investors, and their impact on public policy and the political climate through lobbying and contributions to political candidates.

Delving deeper into the companies that participate in fracking and their impact will give a context to the political issues currently faced by the industry. Having knowledge of the companies involved in fracking and their lobbying expenditures will allow for greater transparency and understanding of fracking practices and the companies behind them.

As fracking and related issues have become politicized, controversy surrounding the process of fracking itself and the oil and gas industry will intensify. One of the largest controversies relating to the oil and gas industry more broadly is the immense power corporations have because of their lobbying expenditures and political partnerships. This paper will provide detailed information about campaign spending and other lobbying efforts, and will highlight the controversy surrounding political contributions, the ways in which companies are disclosing risks of fracking to investors, and how investors are pressuring companies to increase transparency.

Understanding the major players in natural gas drilling and their impact on the political climate in the United States is important for both Lehigh University students and the general public. In general, Lehigh students and the public will gain a basic understanding of the role corporate funding plays in politics. Perhaps more specifically, ExxonMobil, one of the companies highlighted in this paper, is a top recruiter at Lehigh. Understanding a major component of its business will give Lehigh students a different perspective on Exxon’s role in fracking, as well as other similar companies.

The public will also gain information about fracking, and the ways in which companies ally themselves with trade associations to advertise and lobby on their behalf. It is important to understand how political contributions play a role in government decision-making and the broader financial implications of lobbying. Additionally, investors and potential investors in stocks and bonds of oil and gas companies will gain a better understanding of the steps corporations are taking to disclose risks of fracking to shareholders.