SEARCH BLOG: ENERGY
These are current estimates of worldwide shale natural gas resources excluding gray areas. [source]
"We shouldn't be counting on shale oil because costs of extraction are too high, but we shouldn't count on Middle East/OPEC oil because of political instability that will lead to high oil prices."
The vast reserves of gas concealed in shale have long been known about, but until recently there was no economic means to extract them. Over the past five years, however, the situation has changed dramatically, thanks to a method of hydraulically fracturing rock along its seams — or ‘fracking’ for short. While Britain and Europe have been throwing hundreds of billions in subsidies at renewable energy, the US shale gas industry has expanded to account for one quarter of all the country’s gas production — all without subsidies. In doing so it has caught many environmentalists completely unawares. The energy-scarce world of their dreams has been put off for a couple of centuries at least; instead we are staring at a future of potential energy abundance.
Fracking is not a pretty process: it involves drilling a large well and then pumping large quantities of water and sand down it in order to fracture the appropriate strata of rock. Once the rock is fractured, gas can seep into the well and be forced to the surface. But it isn’t anything like as hazardous as environmentalists — in a repeat of the fantasy and exaggeration which characterised the campaign against GM foods a decade ago — like to claim.
Another fear is that fracking causes earth tremors. True, a couple of very minor tremors — of the sort that occur in Britain hundreds of times a year — do appear to have been caused by test-drilling near Blackpool, the epicentre of an embryonic British fracking industry which is now temporarily stalled as a result. But then coal-mining also causes minor earth tremors. It is a problem to be managed, not to be used as a reason to close down an entire industry. Mike Stephenson, head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, said that ‘most geologists think this is a pretty safe activity’ because ‘the risk is pretty low and we have the scientific tools to tell if there is a problem’. [source]