February 19, 2013

The Global Shale Initiative - “Balancing Energy Security and Environmental Concerns”

On August 23rd and 24th, the US Department of State hosted the first ever Global Shale Initiative under the theme “Balancing Energy Security and Environmental Concerns.” Over 50 delegates from 20 countries attended the meeting prominent amongst them were China, India, Poland and South Africa. Also in attendance were the EPA and 12 other USG agencies, oil companies with the fracking technology. 

Shale gas is natural gas formed as a result of being trapped in shale formations. The process used to extract shale gas is known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. 
Hydraulic fracturing has become a contentious environmental and health issue throughout the world to the extent that France, Bulgaria and certain states in the United States like Vermont have banned the practice entirely, while some other countries and certain states in the United States have placed a moratorium on the practice to have ample time to carry further studies for purposes of making an informed decision.

Proponents of fracking were claiming before that no evidence has been found to prove that the process causes adverse environmental and health effects, thus implying that the process is safe. They also claim that developing natural gas using this modern technology will reduce dependence on foreign countries, create jobs and help in reducing green house gases. Right now they are saying that with effective regulations, fracking can be done safely.

On the other hand, those who are against it claim that it causes serious environmental and health risk such as water pollution, air pollution, increase of green house gases in the atmosphere, earth quakes and so on.

Here’s what I think was wrong with the Global Shale Initiative:
- Though the Global Shale Iniative included Environmental Concerns in its theme, no environmental organization was invited. The State Department invited the EPA, which has no regulation specifically on fracking, meanwhile state agencies which have some specific regulation on fracking were not invited.
Also, Poland was among the countries invited and encouraged to develop it shale reserves. Poland gets most of its energy from Russia, if it can develop its shale reserves, it will become Energy Independent and less control from Russia.
- Also, the oil companies were invited to talk about the fracking technology and after the conference India, China and South Africa have invested million of dollars in these oil companies to get the technology.

Written for SIEL by:
Eric Denzel, 2012 L&C Alum