Global Shale Gas Initiative: Balancing Energy Security and Environmental Concerns

Posted by David L. Goldwyn
September 3, 2010
Burning Oil Shale Rock

About the Author: David L. Goldwyn serves as the Coordinator for International Energy Affairs.

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



United States
September 4, 2010

O.C. in the U.S.A. writes:

This is a really good opportunity for America to sell oil shale emmissions capture technology. Invite everyone back to Las Vegas for a really good time and get those sales so we can jumpstart our slow as molasses economy.
We can sell ice to Eskimos can't we? Let's get busy, America!

New Mexico, USA
September 4, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Timely blog post David, I was just reading a real interesting report about this industry.

I don't know enough about the science involved to hold an opinion on whether this is a smart way to go or not, energy wise.
But every geological formation has its own unique stresses and characteristics, and the challenge in in the knowing when it's not safe ecologicly to proceed.

If we could get to a point where there's some kind of global OSHA standard for extractive industry, and eventually all heavy industry, power generation, labor safety standards...etc. then we might have the mechanism in place globally to work on a real climate change solution.

I mention OSHA as a working mechanism that provides a model of regulation and enforcement at the local level, not it's specific standards for US companies transfered and expanded to the global level as that standard is the subject of another debate all nations must join in on a human rights level...the right to live and work in a safe environment and by what standards is "safe" defined.

That's the one that takes into account we're only human and think we can do anything we want to (and arn't all that hip to just how much we can do both good and bad generally as we tend to suprise ourselves a lot), and only then by trial and error.

We've gotten good at designing stuff that is pretty reliable, but when it fails, as in the Gulf spill, you have to factor "murphy's law" into this every time therafter while drawing up an environmental assesment for future drilling that the local citizens have imput in via public comment.

And when the public can demonstratably light their drinking water on fire (see article), then I guess folks will have some "inflamed" feedback to offer.

South Korea
September 4, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Dear to,

Jobs for citizens and business owners for energy right now to overcome the difficulties of lending to the energy, I think.

Good news from the White House had sent us to think. Mr. President Barack Obama did approve the support for Pakistan,

This situation in domestic legislation for Congress to pass the self-employed people becoming unemployed, provide job opportunities are hoping.

It's what we all want jobs, and many companies and financial institutions still do not have the confidence that appears of the people. Large corporations and banks make the best use of taxpayer money that was. I think it is that they return. And citizens must be economic activity is expanding the activities of corporations and banks that I think everyone should know. I think the citizens will show interest. I think Congress should move. Elections, but for survival.

Thank You.

United States
September 5, 2010

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

What governments need to know before they establish a shale gas industry is, that government ownership of natural resources is a prime characteristic of totalitarian dictatorships.

Governments were formed for common defense and to govern but not to "create industries". A reason for having a government is to supply infrastructure which the private sector does not supply.

There is no shortage of oil companies willing to create an oil shale industry if it can be made profitable. One way to help make it profitable is to stop taxing it.

Shale R.
California, USA
October 8, 2010

S.R. in California writes:

Is there a list of countries that have actually "signed on" or "joined" the shale initiative? I have only found two countries (China and Poland) that have formally signed up and I am trying to get an official list for an article I'm writing. Thanks!


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