America has definitely won the golden ticket when it comes to reserves of shale gas.
The Energy Information Administration reports that there is 2,214 trillion cubic feet of shale gas that is recoverable in the U.S.
This boom in shale gas has driven the prices of natural gas down to around $2 per British thermal unit and is believed to be able to support our current energy consumption for the next 100 years, whilst emitting 50% less CO2 than coal. The reason that shale gas has suddenly become so cheap is because there have been great technological advances in the extraction of shale gas. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling (also known as fracking) have aided in making the extraction of shale gas much cheaper and a lot quicker.
Sustainable energy could take a massive setback
But we shouldn’t rush into thinking that shale gas is the answer to all our energy problems. Not only is the extraction of shale gas harmful to our environment and in many instance is thought to be the cause of more earthquakes with the fracking, we need to consider the effect that this sudden burst of cheap fuel has had on sustainable energy sources. It is believed that sustainable energy is right at the point of “taking off” and the sudden presence of shale gas on the energy market could determine the success or fall of sustainable energy.
Cheaper energy is what most people prefer.
The reasons it could do this is because sustainable energy is seen as the solution to depleting energy reserves. Now that there is a large amount of energy available and depletion is a much smaller threat, many people could turn away from sustainable energy. Let’s face facts, there is much more publicity about getting cheap energy than there is about being supplied with clean and sustainable energy and most people don’t care where the energy supplies come from as long as they can get a bargain into the deal.
No Fracking Way! The Natural Gas Boom Is Doing More Harm Than Good
The following video is a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared. It is well worth a watch and you will see both sides of the argument for and against fracking for natural gas.
The main points are:
- the need to get off dirty coal and oil FAST
- the need to consider the IRREVERSIBLE effects on the environment and waterways if fracking continues.
But the BIG question is:
Why are we still continuing to extract fossil fuels instead of massive investments into renewables and creating millions of green jobs?
Hopefully the figures might be wrong.
Estimations may be wrong about the amount of shale gas that is available, and even if they are correct other factors will still affect the reserves. For example there has been research carried out stating that a certain percentage of shale gas will escape into the atmosphere when it is mined. Meaning that not all the gas can be extracted. We are still in the early stages of fully understanding shale gas, which makes certain things, such as the amount we will be able to extract, very hard to predict.
We also need to take into account that our current energy consumption won’t stay the same over the next 100 years. Therefore sustainable energy such as wind and solar should be still be considered important as they will still be able to support us as they run using the wind and the suns rays, which will never become depleted like gas.
The main effect that shale gas is having on sustainable energy sources is undercutting its development due to its low price.
Although sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind are becoming more popular, there is no avoiding that they are still pretty expensive. However the price of solar installation has now come down quite dramatically offering an amazing ROI with many people even seeing the value of their house prices rise. Wind turbines used to be able to match natural gas on price due to tax credits but these credits expire at the end of this year. What this means is that sustainable energy sources will be unable to compete with shale gas and people will start to turn to the cheaper source of energy. Suggestions have been made that the money that using shale gas could save, as opposed to coal, should be channelled into sustainable energy sources. This will still allow for the industry to grow and will provide a backup in case something goes wrong with shale gas or for when reserves of shale gas do run out.
There is no avoiding that shale gas is a big threat to sustainable energy sources and that its emergence couldn’t have come at a worse time. Yet sustainable energy still has its advantages over shale gas. It won’t be running out within the next 100 years, it emits CO2 emissions and doesn’t harm the environment as much. We can only wait and see to how the events turn out.
Hopefully we will put the environment first over the price as that is what we really have to worry about.
Img adapted from: www.flickr.com/photos/scoobie1993/5390792278/ and www.flickr.com/photos/greensefa/8002425446/