Shale Gas? – Alternative Energy Option

Shale Gas..What’s all the fuss about?

Shale gas has recently become a very hot energy topic, in fact some energy experts see shale gas as very important energy source in years to come. What exactly is shale gas? Shale gas is natural gas found in shale rock, and according to the latest estimates North America has around 1,000 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas which is enough to supply U.S. natural gas needs for almost 50 years.

So as you can see shale gas is readily available energy source. And some energy experts will tell you that with the new drilling technologies shale gas can be extracted at a low enough cost to become interesting energy option for many countries.

Availability and potentially low costs are only one part of the story, and some energy experts believe that shale gas could end the dominance of Russia and OPEC countries that dictate the terms to the rest of the world when it comes to natural gas. Increased shale gas production would likely lead to a significant decline in natural gas prices turning shale gas into one of the cheapest energy option that could even compete in costs with coal, currently the cheapest energy option. Domestic shale gas would also lead to reduced need for foreign fuel import meaning more of our money would stay within our borders.

From the environmental point of view shale gas looks to have the edge over the coal because shale gas gives off just half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal. But as some environmentalists have pointed out potential leakages of methane gas from shale gas wells could offset the carbon dioxide reductions and climate benefit of switching from coal to natural (shale) gas. This is because methane is around 20 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and therefore if things go wrong shale gas could cause even bigger emissions than coal.

Some energy experts also say that shale gas can slow down the transition to renewable energy because renewable energy depends on different tax incentives to achieve acceptable costs while shale gas is soon set to become one of the cheapest energy option. They also point out that the term “cheaper” is still preferred to term “greener” when it comes to energy and energy sources.

Is it therefore realistically to expect that shale gas could be one of the game changers, an energy source that will play very important role in global energy market in the next few decades? Very difficult to tell from the current point of view.

While there is true that shale gas has the potential to become one of the cheapest energy options, especially with the further advancement in drilling technologies, shale gas exploration and drilling is still fairly expensive, and it also carries significant environmental risks that cannot be overlooked.

I for one still prefer renewable energy, regardless oh higher costs because of environmental risks connected with shale gas. The fact that shale gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal doesn’t make it environmentally friendly energy source, especially not when compared with renewable energy sources.

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