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U.S. May Be ‘Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas,’ But Shale Gas Rush Is Slowing

Following on last week’s State of the Union address that supported hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” in shale gas deposits, President Obama called the U.S. “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and unveiled a new proposal to provide tax breaks to boost the use of natural gas as a fuel for trucks.

But the market has a glut of natural gas due to widespread use of the drilling method, pushing prices to their lowest in a decade and deflating the shale gas rush, leading large producers to cut production to try to bring the price up.

The House of Representatives held a hearing on fracking to follow up on a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that found fracturing fluids were the likely cause of contaminated groundwater in Pavilion, Wyo. At the hearing, a filmmaker who made the documentary “Gasland” was arrested for filming without a press credential—an action that Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said was unprecedented.

Meanwhile, the EPA began new tests of groundwater in Dimock, Pa., after becoming aware of data that suggests drinking water contamination near fracking sites.

In Europe, shale gas exploration would be covered by existing regulations on water contamination and use of chemicals, so there is no need for new regulations at this point, a European Commission report said.

Also, the International Energy Agency urged the G20 to put stringent rules on shale gas production, while also planning a workshop to consider ways of easing obstacles to shale gas production around the world, with the aim of producing a “Magna Carta” of rules to guide the industry for years to come.

Shale gas is off to a slow start in Europe, and is unlikely to challenge Russia’s dominance of the natural gas market there anytime soon, argues Foreign Policy‘s Steve LeVine. Exxon announced disappointing results from shale gas wells in Poland, and Bulgaria banned fracking, following the lead of France.

Battery Bankruptcy

In Obama’s State of the Union address last week Obama mentioned battery makers as an example of clean-tech. The next day Ener1—whose subsidiary, EnerDel, makes electric vehicle batteries and received $118 million in green stimulus grant money—filed for bankruptcy.

Some called this a repeat of Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt, and which Obama had touted as a model cleantech business.

However, many others shot back, pointing out that Ener1 is different in many ways. Ener1 will continue operating during bankruptcy proceedings, rather than shutting down as Solyndra did. Also, Ener1 received widespread support over the past several years, netting a deal with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium and a U.S. Department of Defense research grant, and enjoyed bipartisan support.

Overall, it has been a tough time for electric-car battery makers, with demand for electric vehicles lower than expected. But the future is bright for the sector, argued Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with goals to get a million electric cars on the road within the next several years in both China and the U.S.

Also, the California Air Resources Board mandated that by 2025, roughly one in seven cars sold in the state would have to be plug-in hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell vehicles—a standard that 10 other states may likewise adopt.

Biofuels’ Big Footprint

Some of the most popular biofuels—made from palm oil or soybeans—cause more global warming than regular fossil fuels, and nearly as much as tar sands, according to a European Commission (EC) evaluation of biofuels, which was leaked to Euractiv.

Under the European Union’s 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, for biofuels to count toward the goal of increasing renewable energy, the biofuels must have substantially less emissions than regular gasoline. The EC will use the data on emissions when issuing new legislative proposals on biofuels this spring.

Today’s biofuels have such large emissions in large part because tropical forests are often cleared to grow them—and a new study found that such forests store about 20 percent more carbon than previously thought.

Carbon Labels, Glaciers Disappear

British supermarket chain Tesco pledged in 2007 to label all its products with their carbon footprint, but the company announced it has given up the plan since it proved too difficult, requiring several months of work for each product, and because other companies didn’t follow their lead.

In Chile, a new reason for glacier retreat arose: a thief stole five tons of ice from the Jorge Montt glacier, which he planned to sell as designer ice cubes for cocktails.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Comments

  1. Steven
    Canada
    February 9, 2012, 10:03 am

    Shale fracking = US children future compromised… Tell frackers not to mess with our most precious ressource: WATER.