Developing America's Unconventional Gas Resources
December 13, 2010
Access, higher prices, and advances in technology have made it possible to commercially develop unconventional gas resources. The magnitude and potential impact of this resource has attracted a great deal of public- and private-sector interest, as well as increasing scrutiny. The ability to produce increasing volumes from the United States’ vast shale reserves has the potential to reduce U.S. import reliance, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase global gas supplies, and potentially alter the way gas is marketed globally, thereby conferring substantial economic, security, and environmental benefits for both the United States and the world at large.
However, failure to manage some of the attendant impacts surrounding the development of this resource at scale could seriously hamper efforts to fully realize those benefits. Such impacts include water use and contamination concerns; issues surrounding the public disclosure of the composition of fracking fluids; the “industrialization” of rural areas during development, evidenced by increased congestion, road construction, noise, haze, fugitive emissions, and infrastructure development; and local issues related to widely differing lease arrangements, population density, property values, tax revenue streams, and land use. This report seeks to put the strategic value of this resource in context, outline the potential benefits and challenges to its development, and suggest strategies and actions for charting a responsible path forward.