Monday, August 29, 2011

Shale gas (from the Economist)

I'm behind writing about what I've been reading, but one striking thing from a few weeks ago (6 August Economist) was an essay and an article about the growth of the shale oil, shale gas, and indeed just natural gas.  

As the Economist writes, the distribution of shale-gas reserves is not as centralized as oil reserves (basically, where-ever there is coal, there is the opportunity of shale-gas), and now that it's possible to better extract it, there will be many players producing it.  While they see the market forces leading to production as a good thing, they argue that the environmental issues associated with shale-gas production are non-trivial and ultimately if it really is cleaner burning than coal, we're likely to have MORE warming associated with shifting from coal to shale-gas.  

Why?  Because, as they point out, the Earth is a bit cooler from all the coal that China has burned in the past few decades.  Without the particulate matter in the air, the effect of increasing CO2 levels from burning carbon will not be buffered and the World will warm.  Of course there are other bad effects of increased CO2 (including ocean acidification...).  

They note that just because we have this source of cleaner burning fuel, using it may actually delay the production of new, carbon-neutral sources of energy.  And this, from the Economist.  

Yes, we should be scared.

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