Paul M. Barrett, for Bloomberg, has written up a pretty good introduction to natural gas from shale. The article delves a bit into the history and geology of the subject, but focuses more on the business efforts that turned a modestly interesting rock into a significant economic resource and the environmental politics that have risen in response. Highly recommended if you want to know where the natural gas that is changing the world’s energy outlook has come from.
A few things are left out of this “introduction.” Of course we could dig deeper into each of the topics mentioned. The next step in the story is the international angle – shale gas is being developed in Argentina, the United Kingdom, Poland and elsewhere – with significant implications for national and international trade and public policy. Among other things, as examples, central and western Europe will likely become less reliant on Russian gas supplies, and the United States and Canada probably don’t build a natural gas pipeline from Alaska through Canada and into the Midwestern U.S. for at least thirty or forty years.
The complete story of shale gas would also delve a bit into the controversy over the size of the the resource, would go a little deeper into the particular efforts of Devon Energy, and talk about the spillover of the shale gas boom into a boost for unconventional oil. One might wrap up the story by casting it into the big picture “cornucopians vs. Malthusians” debate.
So Bloomberg doesn’t do everything in this introduction, but it is a pretty good introduction to the shale gas issue.
NOTE ALSO: For a bit more on the environmental politics of shale gas, in September the journal Nature carried a pair of articles under the heading “Should Fracking Stop?” The case for stopping was written by Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea, both of Cornell University; the case for continuing was written by Terry Englander of Penn State University. Neither piece gets very close to a complete policy analysis, but both highlight a bunch of the relevant issues.