Following are my notes from the report. Like everything, I think the solution is somewhere between "no fracking" and "drill baby, drill," and I hope that's how the debate proceeds.
- Gas is not like other commodities, because it is difficult to transport. This means that there is not a global price, like there is for oil. Gas is ten times more expensive in Asia than it is in North America.
- There are about 200 years worth of global gas reserves, with the Arctic possibly holding an additional bonanza.
- Gas is 50% cleaner than coal for generating power. And 25% cleaner than gasoline
- Shale gas (i.e. fracked) constitutes 1/3 of current US supplies.
- Over the past 5 years, US greenhouse emissions have dropped 450 million tonnes.
- 40% of America's total energy consumption is from residential and commercial buildings.
- The current gas price is the equivalent of $15 for a barrel of oil.
- Fracking has a very small footprint above ground, and takes place thousands of feet below the water table.
- There have been only a few instances of ground water contamination in the over 20,000 wells drilled in the last decade, and ALL due to breaches of existing regulations.
- Fracking does use lots of water, but over its lifetime, a well uses less than a Florida golf course consumes in 3 weeks.
- The biggest shale gas reserves may be in China, which is trying mightily to use more gas to generate electricity and power cars.
- Liquefied Natural Gas (which is more easily transported) is five times more expensive in Europe and Asia than the US, suggesting exporting opportunities.
- Fracking allows more countries to produce gas, which mitigates the risks of OPEC style cartelization of the industry.
I haven't heard anyone say that a country powered by natural gas would be a cleaner one, with more local jobs, less dependent on shadowy regimes in the Middle East, but it seems like a convincing one; and it's not something that depends on a technological breakthrough. It may win the battle of the marketplace anyway, but it seems like a few nudges (incentives for gas-fired power plants and electric cars) would help to speed the plow.