The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that in order for so-called unconventional sources of natural gas, such as shale gas, to play a a major role in the world’s energy future, “governments, industry and other stakeholders must work together to address legitimate public concerns about the associated environmental and social impacts.” The IEA released a special report earlier this week that delved into these sources of gas. Titled Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas, the report outlines a set of rules to deal with the environmental and social issues.
Claiming that the “‘technology and the know-how already exist for unconventional gas to be produced in an environmentally acceptable way,’” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven laid out a future in which unconventional gas can overcome many of the barriers associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Calling for the environmental and societal impacts to be properly addressed, van der Hoeven states that “‘industry must win public confidence by demonstrating exemplary performance; governments must ensure that appropriate policies and regulatory regimes are in place.’”
Included in the IEA’s Golden Rules are transparency, measuring and monitoring of both environmental and social impacts, preventive measures for avoiding leaks into groundwater, assessment and monitoring of wastewater, regulatory control and improved project planning among others.
James Herron at The Wall Street Journal reports the international “exploitation of shale gas reserves could transform the world’s energy supply by lowering prices, improving security and curbing carbon dioxide emissions, but the industry might be stopped in its tracks if it doesn’t work harder to resolve environmental concerns.” Herron points out that the IEA does not have the capacity to regulate the industry and that it will be up to individual governments to decide whether or not they adopt the IEA’s Golden Rules or some other path.
Some groups have not responded favorably to the IEA’s findings. The BBC reports that the IEA has upset environmental groups by tacitly supporting continued drilling.