Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Researcher says shale gas will slow development of renewable energy and alter global landscape

Vast expansion of natural gas production from deep shales may have another consequence: slowing of renewable energy development. "A greater natural gas supply means that in Iowa future new electricity generators will more likely use the relatively clean burning natural gas rather than the coal that is so reviled by environmentalists," Dan Piller of the Des Moines Register writes on the Green Fields blog. Some fear that cleaner, cheaper fuel may derail ambitious plans for renewable energy. (Read more)

But would slowing down renewable energy be a bad thing? Not according to Amy Meyers Jaffe, the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. "The shale discoveries complicate the issue, making it harder for wind, solar and biomass energy, as well as nuclear, to compete on economic grounds," Jaffe writes for The Wall Street Journal. "Subsidies that made renewables competitive with shale gas would get more expensive, as would loan guarantees and incentives for new nuclear plants." She argues for avoiding "the urge to protect coal states" by letting gas replace coal and investing in heavily in research and development for renewable energy for the day when shale reserves begin to dwindle.

The new gas sources will have an impact beyond renewable energy, Jaffe writes: "I am convinced that shale gas will revolutionize the industry—and change the world—in the coming decades. It will prevent the rise of any new cartels. It will alter geopolitics." Environmental concerns have been overplayed, Jaffe argues, but she agrees that strict enforcement of drilling regulations will be needed to alleviate fears. (Read more)

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