Debating the merits and dangers of fracking shale gas has become a major obession of those who worry about energy and the climate. Yale’s e360′s latest contribution comes in the form a forum that includes a wide variety of perspectives pro and con.
For me, the wisest observation, and the one that really trumps all others, comes from Kevin Anderson, who directs the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research’s energy program:
… the only responsible action with regard to shale gas, or any “new” unconventional fossil fuel, is to keep it in the ground — at least until there is a meaningful global emissions cap forcing substitution. In the absence of such an emissions cap, and in our energy hungry world, shale gas will only be combusted in addition to coal — not as a substitution, as many analysts have naively suggested.
It’s hard to argue with that. The UK has emissions-reductions goals but no caps. The U.S. doesn’t even have official targets, let alone caps. So even if shale gas doesn’t turn out to threaten to accelerate global warming — the jury is still out on just how much methane fracking will let escape into the atomsphere — the political reality renders such arguments moot.