Doctoral Dissertation Research: Environmental Attitudes and Policy Formulation Associated with Rapid Energy-Related Development
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This doctoral dissertation research project will examine the political and economic context that determines how, when, and where discussions related to hydraulic fracturing are produced. Focusing specifically on North Dakota's Bakken Formation, the doctoral student will examine how everyday experiences of individuals who have resided in the region for at least five years influence the creation and understanding of written and spoken claims, arguments, and ideas. The student also will measure the effect of these discourses on the decision making of planners, local officials, and business leaders in regards to hydrocarbon extraction and economic development. The results of this project will contribute to theoretical discussions surrounding the production of scientific and lay knowledge and will provide new insights regarding the longer-term outcomes of boom and post-boom communities. Project results will be shared with municipal, industry, and non-governmental groups in North Dakota, and an online undergraduate instructional module will be created to expose science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students to societal impacts of technology development. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career. Daily experiences with resource extraction influence how residents think, talk, and write about resources, but little is known about how knowledge of hydraulic fracturing is generated in areas undergoing "boom" conditions. During the conduct of this project, the doctoral student will use content analysis of oil and gas coverage in North Dakota newspapers as well as GIS visualization techniques to measure variation in land use and policy preferences among community leaders. Qualitative interviews will be conducted to gauge the opinions of longer-term residents regarding hydrocarbon-related development. Results from this project will contribute to theoretical and empirical literatures dealing with geographies of energy (particularly geographies of fossil fuel production), the formation of ideas and arguments in zones of extraction, and the social and cultural dimensions of hydraulic fracturing. Furthermore, this project will generate empirical data about activities and attitudes in the Bakken shale region, which has received scant attention in the social science literature compared to shale plays in Texas and Appalachia.