UPDATE: I missed it, but on January 11th, even President Obama tentatively endorsed domestic shale gas exploration (subject to Lisa Jackson's assessment of environmental risks, sigh).
Remember all that fear-mongering about "peak oil"? The price mechanism of free markets always overstated such worries, as did the plentiful fossil fuels still untapped in North America.
Chief among those resources is shale gas. With shale, according to Luis Alberto Terrero, head of the Venezuelan Gas Processors Association (AVPG), "the global energy chessboard is changing, and markets will be realigned. Countries that have never had so much available energy will become self-sufficient, and perhaps even exporters."
Foremost among those former countries, of course, is the United States, whose net daily petroleum imports in 2011 were around 8,500 barrels per day. Within 25 years, shale gas could dramatically increase domestic energy supply (page 79), and both lower natural gas prices, and make the U.S. a net natural gas exporter (page 39).
Unless the green zealots freeze it. Environmentalists once supported natural gas as an alternative to "dirty" coal. But now they're hysterically opposed, citing fears of ground water contamination and earthquakes. According to the publication New Scientist, both worries are over-stated.
In fact, greenies' actual rationale for agitation is that -- without Obama's failed cap-and-trade to drive up energy prices -- shale gas production will make renewables even more uncompetitive. That explains why Obama and the enviros also oppose building Keystone XL to pipe Canadian shale gas to the U.S.. But, as even those concerned about greenhouse gas emissions admit, domestic shale gas production has a higher upside: According to a new IHS Global Insight study, domestic shale gas production could add 270,000 jobs and contribute almost $120 billion to GDP by 2015. This is especially important in light of the historic correlation between high oil prices and high unemployment.
The year in energy could hardly have begun better, with the elimination of the corn ethanol subsidy. But with a decision on the Keystone pipeline tied to the extension of the payroll tax holiday, Obama must rule on the necessary permit by February 21st. Pipeline opponents have started claiming House Speaker John Boehner has a financial conflict of interest, given his investments in Canadian oil sand firms; Boehner says his financial decisions are made by an independent adviser, over which he has no control. In any event, granting the cross-border permit is the President's and (State Department's) decision, so it's not clear how Boehner's investments (even if unethical) would be relevant. Anyway, I'm betting Obama finds a way to kick the can on Keystone once again.
But the most important issue is a Federal commitment to expanding approvals for shale gas exploration and extraction. Especially given how EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is trying to kill the energy sector, I'm afraid that will require a Republican President.
(via Global Warming Policy Foundation)