The story so far: shale, an 'unconventional' source of natural gas, has long been known about but only latterly exploited. It is now being produced in such quantities in the USA that, far from their needing imports (as universally predicted until very recently), they have started exporting the stuff once again - including turning around US-bound cargoes of LNG to Europe. In so doing, the price of natgas in N.America has been cratered, and in Europe has remained much softer than would otherwise have been the case. Naturally enough, folk are now looking for shale gas all over the world, and it turns out there is loads of it. Now read on ...
Shale gas is a game-changer, because while oil prices have risen mightily since 2009 & one can envisage them increasing steadily hereafter (provided no double-dip) - gas prices have not, and it is entirely possible they stay 'de-coupled'. We've been covering this since the recession first blew away industrial gas demand in late '08.
The renewables lobby have not been slow to spot that continuation of this trend courtesy of shale gas will significantly undermine the already chronic economic case for their beloved projects. So they have gleefully jumped on a rumbling bandwagon that finds fault with some of the US industry's shale production practices. Protest is spearheaded by the lurid, Michael Moore-style Gasland film, which - yes, you guessed - has arrived in the UK to coincide with (a) the announcement of some shale gas in Lancashire and (b) a report, sponsored by the Co-op (sic), on the wickedness of it all.
And so the sophistry, non-sequiturs and outright disinformation begin. There will be so much in the coming months and years it will be difficult to keep up. Here's just one. From the chap responsible for the Co-op's involvement in this:
"It's like tar sands in your backyard, both in terms of local pollution and in terms of carbon emissions"
But from the very report he commissioned:
"shale gas extraction, at a global level, does not involve the high energy and water inputs at the scale of other unconventional fuels, such as oil derived from tar sands" (my emphasis)
Don't expect the level of debate to get any better.
Footnote: anyone wanting to read up on shale gas should go to NoHotAir, a somewhat monomaniac site which covers all aspects of this topic really well.