Lesson 12: The Future of Shale Energy
Shale energy has triggered an energy revolution in the United States that has the potential to change the global energy landscape. Currently there are only several countries commercially producing shale oil or gas, lead by the US, Canada, Argentina, and China. Based on existing assessments many countries around the world may have their own domestic shale resources, which if developed could have far reaching implications socially, economically, environmentally, and geopolitically. For example American manufacturing and industry is greatly benefitting from low-cost energy, power and feedstock from shale resources. By reducing oil imports and starting exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the US trade balance could improve significantly. However these economic benefits must be balanced by minimizing environmental impacts, which natural gas can improve in some regards and be potentially negative in others. Natural gas is less polluting than coal so substituting shale gas for coal is lowers CO2 and other air emissions, yet we know methane is a potent greenhouse gas. There have been water contamination incidents from stray gas or leaking storage facilities however much of the environmental impact can be prevented if the industry chooses sites more carefully, recycles fluids, continues to invest in better technologies, and with stronger regulations. The reality is that as populations grow, so will energy demands, which may lead to challenges in balancing economics, energy security, and the environmental protection. Shale energy resources may play a large role in meeting global energy demands for decades to come, therefore striking a balance for a sustainable future will be critical.
- By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Understand society's energy demands
- Assess the global importance of shale energy
- Address social license issues with shale energy projects
- Engage in thoughtful dialogue on the big picture of the energy future and the role shale energy may play in it.