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Opinion
Tom Zeller

Is the U.S. Shale Boom Going Bust?

 While the most dire of warnings are probably overstated, a host of geological and economic realities increasingly suggest that the fracking party might not last as long as most Americans think.
Yes, this is a cheap visual metaphor. Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images
Yes, this is a cheap visual metaphor. Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

It's not surprising that a survey of energy professionals attending the 2014 North American Prospect Expo overwhelmingly identified "U.S. energy independence" as the trend most likely to gain momentum this year. Like any number of politicians and pundits, these experts are riding high on the shale boom -- that catch-all colloquialism for the rise of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have unleashed a torrent of hydrocarbons from previously inaccessible layers of rock.

But this optimism belies an increasingly important question: How long will it all last?