- In a carbon-constrained economy, the relative importance of natural gas is likely to increase even further, as it is one of the most cost-effective means by which to maintain energy supplies while reducing CO2 emissions. This is particularly true in the electric power sector, where, in the U.S., natural gas sets the cost benchmark against which other clean power sources must compete to remove the marginal ton of CO2. (So it's not that continued energy use is the problem. It's just the source.)
- The current supply outlook for natural gas will contribute to greater competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing, while the use of more efficient technologies could offset increases in demand and provide cost-effective compliance with emerging environmental requirements.
- The environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable. (?) There has been concern that these fractures can also penetrate shallow freshwater zones and contaminate them with fracturing fluid, but there is no evidence that this is occurring. (?) There is, however, evidence of natural gas migration into freshwater zones in some areas, most likely as a result of substandard well completion practices by a few operators. There are additional environmental challenges in the area of water management, particularly the effective disposal of fracture fluids. (to where?) Concerns with this issue are particularly acute in regions that have not previously experienced large-scale oil and natural gas development, especially those overlying the massive Marcellus shale, and do not have a well-developed subsurface water disposal infrastructure. It is essential that both large and small companies follow industry best practices. (How do we trust them? Why should we trust them? Please some one try to convince me.)
- Government-supported research on the fundamental challenges of unconventional natural gas development, particularly shale gas, should be greatly increased in scope and scale. In particular, support should be put in place for a comprehensive and integrated research program to build a system-wide understanding of all subsurface aspects of the U.S. shale resource. In addition, research should be pursued to reduce water usage in fracturing and to develop cost-effective water recycling technology. A concerted coordinated effort by industry and government, both state and Federal, should be organized so as to minimize the environmental impacts of shale gas development through both research and regulation.
- The U.S. should support unconventional natural gas development outside U.S., particularly in Europe and China, as a means of diversifying the natural gas supply base.