Why there is so much talk about shale gas?

There are some energy experts who believe that shale gas could slow down the further development of renewable energy sector in United States. Shale gas is natural gas found in shale rock, and if the latest estimates are right then the North America alone has around 1,000 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas. Such large amount is enough to satisfy current U.S. natural gas for the approximately next 50 years.

The main advantage of shale gas is therefore the fact that this is energy resource which is readily available. Can shale gas be also talked about as economically acceptable energy option? Recent energy studies have showed that with the new drilling technologies shale gas can be extracted at a low enough cost to become commercially viable energy option for many countries around the globe.

On global scale shale gas could even end the dominance of Russia and OPEC countries. These countries currently dictate the terms to the rest of the world in natural gas supply as well as the natural gas prices. Increased shale gas production on global level would make natural gas even cheaper than it is now, and some energy experts believe that shale gas even has the potential to turn natural gas into the cheapest energy option of them all, even cheaper than coal.

Shale gas is significantly cleaner energy source compared to coal, and in average shale gas produces only half the carbon emissions of coal. Does this make shale gas environmentally friendly source of energy? Not exactly, because there is also a risk of potential leakages of methane gas from shale gas wells. Methane is 20 times more potent greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide and methane gas leakage could in the worst possible scenario offset carbon dioxide reductions and thus remove the benefits of switching from coal to shale gas.

Is shale gas capable to slow down the further development of renewable energy? This is also quite possible because renewable energy depends on different tax incentives to achieve acceptable economics while shale gas is already looking like one of the cheapest energy options.

Some energy experts will go as far as saying that shale gas is one of the game changers, an energy source that will play significant role in global energy supply in the next couple of decades. Is it realistically to expect future dominance of shale gas, and natural gas in general?

If shale gas really becomes as cheap as some energy experts say it will then everything is possible, though as already mentioned before there are also significant environmental risks which cannot be overlooked.

If I had to choose between shale gas and renewable energy, I would always choose renewable energy, regardless of higher prices. Why? Because shale gas, though being less polluting energy source compared to coal still contributes to climate change, and the health of our planet is more important than saving few bucks on your energy bill. Well, at least it should be.