Thursday, January 05, 2012

Shale Gas - Rising Industry to Destroy Renewable Energy Sector Growth?

Despite the enormously damaging effects of "fracking", otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, on the environment and the prediction of 100,000 plus new wells being needed over the next 20 plus years, to extract it. Shale Gas is emerging as the potential supplier of 40% or more of all domestic natural gas within 25 years.

Already, there have been decisions made in the US to stop Anaerobic Digestion projects based upon energy crop production which would have taken the AD industry to a whole new level of scale in at least one of the "bread basket" states of the US. These projects won't go ahead as they see the vast US gas reserves in Shale as reducing natural gas prices significantly.

Shale Gas has been found in Lancashire in the UK, and if other nations, notably the US, is developing these reserves it will be hard to stop them in the UK and Europe as we will need to continue to compete with the US economically.

Energy pundits are starting to view the Shale Gas discoveries made recently as game changers, and as these sources leak methane to atmosphere, there is a cance that they may be seen as a lesser evil from a climate change perspective than might at first glance seem possible.

The following is a quotation from an article titled: "Shale gas - Time to look Before We Leap Further". (Click here to read the full article.)

Shale gas is a game-changer for global energy supply. It is already transforming the U.S. energy outlook, and is expected to deliver over 40% of domestic gas production by 2025 (Figure 1). Other countries and regions, notably Europe and China, may soon follow suit, in a repeat of the early 20th century oil rush.

Opinion is bitterly divided, however, over the environmental risks and benefits of this abundant new source of energy – so much so, that the different sides struggle to agree even on basic facts. The debate is raging over two key issues – on-the-ground impacts to water, air, communities, land use, wildlife, and habitats; and the broader energy and global warming implications of developing shale gas.

Attention so far has focused on the local impacts of shale gas extraction through the rock-blasting process known as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). The Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production has warned that “disciplined attention must be devoted to reducing the environmental impact” of shale gas development in the face of its expected continued rapid growth, with as many as 100,000 more wells expected over the next few decades.

The direct impact of shale gas on global warming is another bone of contention. While the combustion of natural gas results in less carbon dioxide emissions than combustion of coal per Btu, the production and distribution of natural gas also causes leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. This increases the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas, reducing the global warming benefits compared to coal.

In addition, a comparison that simply replaces coal with gas in electricity generation ignores the broader greenhouse gas implications of the shale gas phenomenon. One particular concern that policy makers should focus on is the potential impact of the shale gas boom on the renewable energy industry. Unless the federal government sets a price on carbon, the growing U.S. reliance on natural gas could squeeze out zero emission energy sources like wind and solar power. This could in turn undermine, and increase the cost of, U.S. efforts to address climate change.

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