Balancing energy security and environmental concerns can be challenging for many countries. For U.S energy diplomacy, we seek to find policies that advance both of these key priorities, focusing on the long term. This is why I launched the Global Shale Gas Initiative (GSGI). Unconventional sources of natural gas, like shale gas, may be technically and economically recoverable in large quantities in many countries that lack diverse sources of energy supply, or rely on higher carbon sources of fuel for electric power. Natural gas can act as a "bridge fuel" between coal and future development of base-load sources of renewable energy. But if countries want to access these potential sources of energy, they need to be careful to do so safely and in an environmentally sensitive manner. On August 23 and 24, 2010, my office hosted the first ever GSGI Conference, in which over 50 delegates from 20 countries came to discuss the full range of regulatory, investment, and environmental issues involved with shale gas development. More than 13 different USG agencies participated. We also invited the private sector to share their experiences. Countries in attendance included China, India, Poland, Jordan, Chile, and South Africa, among others.
On the first day, the conference took the delegates through the process of what governments need to know before they establish a shale gas industry, based on the United States' experience. We began with presentations from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on the role that unconventional gas will play in U.S. and global energy supply, from the U.S. Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on how to assess the extent of a country's shale gas resources, and then presentations from the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and the Ground Water Protection Council on the umbrella of regulations the United States has put in place at the federal and state level to ensure the safety of drinking water and that shale development is conducted safely and responsibly. On the second day, the presentations focused on the infrastructure, technology, and investment climate necessary for shale development, with presenters from private firms, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Law Development Program, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). Finally, on the third day, the U.S. Energy Association (USEA) arranged for the delegates to travel to Pennsylvania for a visit to a Chief Oil & Gas shale gas site in the Marcellus shale play. Participants were given the chance to see a drilling rig, observe water containment facilities and ask questions at a live gas site. The event was remarkably successful.
While there are no forms of energy without challenges, shale gas presents countries with a cleaner alternative to coal and a way in which they can, potentially, create a more secure energy future for themselves. It will be difficult for any country to replicate the United States' shale gas experience in the energy sector, but the response we have gotten from the conference has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am hoping that this will start a discussion on how countries can enhance their energy security and accelerate their progress to a low carbon future.
Related Content: Briefing on the Global Shale Gas Initiative Conference