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Report Questions Role of Shale Gas as Bridge to Low Carbon Future

The authors warn shale gas will be burned in addition to coal, not as a substitute, and block renewable energy development

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 19, 2011

Without a global carbon price, the expanding shale gas boom would exacerbate climate change and take money away from renewable energy projects, a new report said, calling for a worldwide pause until countries take steps necessary to lower the risks of the new wave of drilling.

The from the well-respected at the University of Manchester is one of the the first to try to measure the global warming implications of the shale gas drilling bonanza. The boom has caused a sustained drop in natural gas prices that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The report said that if the world taps 10 to 40 percent of the gas trapped in shale fields around the world, then an additional 3 to 11 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide would be released by 2050. Climate science points to the need to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and steadily cut them in coming decades.

Global CO2 levels are nearing 390 ppm, according to from the U.S. (NOAA). Some eminent climate scientists, including NASA climatologist James Hansen, believe that Earth's threshold of climate danger is at 350 ppm, a level passed two decades ago.

Kevin Anderson, a lead researcher and former director of the Tyndall Centre, described the prospect of a shale explosion as "very worrisome."

"We need to be bringing that concentration [of CO2] and the cumulative values down very rapidly," he told SolveClimate News. "In our view, [shale] would almost certainly be additional carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The best place for it remains in the ground."

No 'Available Evidence' that Gas is Bridging Fuel

The study challenges the assumption that natural gas, the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, is a transition energy source to a low-carbon future. "None of the available evidence indicates that this is likely to be the case," the authors wrote.

While they acknowledge that shale gas releases about 40 percent fewer greenhouse emissions than coal, Anderson and his colleagues believe it's a moot point because coal will remain king as energy demand grows.

"In the absence of any strong carbon dioxide cap at a global level, all that will happen is that shale gas will be burned in addition to coal — not as a substitute," Anderson said.

The report said that in America the best one could "optimistically" argue is that shale may curb coal's growth rate. The study cites figures from the national (EIA) showing that coal consumption is set to rise by 12 percent by 2035.

The U.S. is the only country to have achieved success in commercial shale gas development.

The UK, which is considering lucrative shale plays and was the main focus of the Tyndall Centre report, is already weaning itself off of coal, with 30 percent of the nation's coal-burning plants expected to shut down at the end of 2015.

Anderson said his primary concern there and elsewhere is that shale gas would substitute for renewable generation, especially if new production further drives down natural gas prices.

Shale Gas Gains Sudden Popularity, Scrutiny

The study comes at a time when previously inaccessible shale gas has gained sudden popularity worldwide.

In the U.S., shale gas has ballooned from 1 percent of natural gas production in 2000 to roughly 10 percent today, thanks to new techniques for drilling horizontally into shale rock, called hydrofracturing, or fracking. The EIA projects the sector will represent 24 percent of natural gas supplies by 2035.

At the same time, the estimates of recoverable resources continue to leap dramatically. The early release of the EIA's 2011 figures show a 100 percent jump over the 2010 estimate.

Weather is not climate


" Fossil fuels are not warming the planet, anybody noticed over the last few winters?"


 What I noticed is that we just had the warmest year on record, or at least a statistical tie with 1998 and 2005.  I also noticed that the last decade is the warmest on record, with the twelve warmest years on record occuring since 1997.  Every year since 2001 is warmer than any year before 1997 in the records.

Is Europe having a cold winter? 

7 of the last 10 European winters were warmer than the 1951-1980 average winter, and 10 of the past 10 summers were warmer than climatology. The average warming of European winters is at least as large as the average warming of summers, but it is less noticeable because of the much greater variability in winter.

In Febuary 2010, when the lower 48 had a lot of snow and two big snowstorms hit Wash.DC, Republicans were all claiming it proved global warming was over.
Calls to take away Al Gore's Nobel Pize were common. Global warming denier fanatic, Senator Inhofe, talked about making an igloo for Gore in Wash DC.
Other GOP politicians, Glen Beck, Limbaugh and the rest of the extreme right misinformers all jumped on this bandwagon.

And here are the actual facts; Remember we are talking global temps, not the temp at your house.

The past 15 months were the warmest on record (through July 2010)

4th warmest January since 1830.

April was the warmest on record.

Jan-March was the warmest on record

Nov- January was the warmest on record

One of the storms hit on Feb 6, the warmest Feb 6 on record

It snows more during warm winters, because warm air holds more moisture.

It was too warm in Vancouver(55F), where the Olympics were held. No snow.

Vermont had no snow.

No one said global warming eliminates winter. It snows in winter. Duh

This snow was a few days in one region, and is local weather variability, not long term global climate. The U.S. only represents about 2.5% of global land mass.

Climate scientists only say the earth has warmed about 1.4 deg F in industrial times. They didn't say it would be 10 degrees warmer at your house this winter.

Yet that 1.4 F change is enough to melt the glaciers, the polar ice caps, change the arrival time of spring and fall, cause sea level rise, acidify the oceans, screw up the migrating, feeding and breeding of many species because of the timing of spring etc. It is likely a contributor to beetle infestations plaguing temperate conifer forests.



shale gas

Fracturing for shale gas recovery is not a new process, it has existed for 60 years with over a million applications and no problems. Water strata and gas strata are separated by thousands of feet of rock.  Dr Anderson should do some reserach before he tries to stop yet another viable source of energy. Fossil fuels are not warming the planet, anybody noticed over the last few winters?

natural gas is not the answer to anything

I've been saying this for two years -- ever since T. Boone Pickens decided he needed another billion $ from natural gas -- another fossil fuel is NOT the future of energy.  What were members of Congress thinking when they sat down for hearings with Pickens and said this is the energy of the future??  They were thinking of their own portfolios.  Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress invested thousands of their own money in natural gas and that is why it's being pushed by Congress.  It's a corrupt push for natural gas from start to finish.

We need to end emissions and get on that course ASAP, not turn to yet another fossil fuel. The idiocy of turning to natural gas is amazing.


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