The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) just released the executive summary of its report, Realizing the Potential of U.S. Unconventional Natural Gas. The report notes that the U.S. unconventional gas resource is huge, and its production is stimulating economic growth and environmental concern. These messages are certainly familiar, but the report adds several new insights.
The report makes the case that natural gas exports will stabilize natural gas prices at a level high enough for continued drilling and production. Balancing the equation, exports will not be large enough to cause price increases that endanger U.S. consumption. This would be a welcome change to historic gas price instabilities.
The report zeros in on the risk that public environmental concern could stop production growth, and makes many recommendations for improving environmental safety and community support.
- The debate about the risks and impacts of production has focused at the state and local level. The report favors state regulation of unconventional resource development including hydraulic fracturing, but encourages improvements in the states’ processes: States need to review and update their regulations, and their regulations should be audited by groups such as the State Review of Oil and Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) and the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC).
- The federal government should support prudent and sustainable natural gas development. One way, the report suggests, is to have the U.S. Geological Survey or the National Academy of Science collect national data, to supplement the more-localized state data, on water-resource impacts, seismicity and methane emissions.
- Companies need to increase their development and deployment of risk-mitigation technology and expand their community involvement.