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Abstract

Why would certain countries forbid a new industry while others encourage it? About a decade after its emergence, shale oil and gas extraction remains an important (and contested) component of global energy geopolitics. While the industry seeks to replicate the US’ spectacular shale production surge elsewhere, there are enduring controversies over its environmental, social and economic impacts. Shale’s divisiveness has puzzled public policy scholars, who have looked at the role of coalitions and framing in shale policy debates. These perspectives capture important traits of the shale debate, but they fail to consider the political economy in which it is embedded. They also overlook the role of timing. How early (or late) a coalition mobilises itself to define and frame an emerging Policy issue can influence the debate’s short-term outcome and its long-term structure. This dissertation makes two contributions to this field. Firstly, through a fuzzy-set QCA comparison, it points to an ideal configuration for favourable shale policies: countries with large shale resources, an established oil and gas industry, as well as (to a lesser extent) high energy supply and economic needs, and lower potential for environmental concerns. Based on these findings, we analyse the fracking ban in France, and the pro-shale policy adopted in Argentina. The cases highlight the advantages of early mobilisation. In France, an anti-shale coalition emerged and spurred a national debate on fracking, framing the issue as a latent environmental disaster and a consultation failure. They forced the government to ban the technique urgently, leaving no time to discuss pro-shale proposals. In Argentina, the government gained political support for the re-nationalisation of the National Oil Company thanks to an energy sovereignty frame, which paved the way for an aggressive shale policy. Late attempts to re-frame the issue and change policy were constrained in both countries due to the strength of the initial frame.

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