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Issue No. 8 - May 15, 2013

1. Shale gas is not a "game changer"

Typical Shale Development

Recently, in a speech entitled "Decisions on fracking will be based on scientific evidence" before the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), DCENR Minister Pat Rabbitte said: "whatever decisions are taken must be based on transparent assessments of solid evidence."

He went on to say:
"the shale revolution is indeed a game-changer the effects of which must be considered on this side of the Atlantic."

Solid evidence from the US indicates, however, that the "shale revolution" has not been a "game-changer" there.
As the Canadian geologist J. David Hughes and others have demonstrated (see SGBI issue Nos. 1, 2, and 4 and the presentations given by Dr. Hughes and Dr. Werner Zittel at “Behind the hype: the economics of shale gas in Europe” on May 14 in Brussels), the high capital requirements of shale gas development mean that a long-term supply of plentiful and cheap shale gas is not a realistic expectation. Production from the best US shale plays is already stagnant or in decline.As Dr. Hughes put it in a January 2012 article,

"Growing, or even maintaining, U.S. oil and gas production will require an increasing level of inputs in terms of the number of wells drilled, the footage drilled, the capital investments required, and, likely, the large amounts of collateral environmental damage incurred."

The numerous graphs presented in this Business Insider article illustrate that, despite the hype, the shale gas boom has had a very small (0.07%) effect on US GDP growth.

Could shale gas be a "game-changer" in Europe? Even representatives of the petroleum industry do not think so. As this well-documented article explains, this is the general view regarding the prospects for shale gas in Europe. Moreover, this comprehensive EU Parliament report (PDF, 1.5 MB) from 2011 concludes that even intensive shale gas exploitation would not make much difference to the overall energy situation in Europe:

"These (unconventional gas) wells would contribute less than 5 per cent to the European gas production over the next
decades, or 2-3 per cent of the gas demand. Even continuing the development rate at that speed (400 additional wells per year) would only marginally increase the production further, as the steep decline rate reduces the production by almost 50 per cent within one year if the development of new wells were be stopped."

2. Fracking and political corruption

Fracking Corruption

It is not just in academia that money from the petroleum industry is suspected of having an undue influence on decision-making.

In the USA, politicians from all parties, but particularly the Republican party, have been the beneficiaries of massive contributions from petroleum companies. Oil and gas companies are spending so much on political contributions that their shareholders are beginning to question the practice.
For more on the influence of petroleum industry money in US politics, see also:
In Poland, one of the few European countries with a pro-fracking policy, seven people including government officials were charged last year with corruption related to the licensing of shale gas exploration.

3. "Lock the Gate" comes to Ireland

It's Time - Lock the Gate

Lock the Gate is a grassroots movement that began in Australia in 2010 to protect rural areas from the highly polluting extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) by means of hydraulic fracturing.

Annie Kia, a representative of Lock the Gate, was recently in Ireland to make presentations to local activists in the North West and Clare.

At the event in Leitrim Village, her presentation "The Impacts of Gasfields on Communities" was met with a standing ovation, and many local farmers in attendance expressed their frustration with the inaction of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) on the issue of unconventional gas development in Ireland.

Issue No. 7     May 1, 2013

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