MIT paper: Shale gas could crowd out clean energy

January 18, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

There’s an important new paper out from scientists at MIT, published in the inaugural issue of a new journal, Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy. The paper is called, “The Influence of Shale Gas on U.S. Energy and Environmental Policy,” (sign-in required) and it concludes:

… The gas “revolution” has important implications for the direction and intensity of national efforts to develop and deploy low-emission technologies, like CCS for coal and gas.

With nothing more than regulatory policies of the type and stringency simulated here there is no market for these technologies, and the shale gas reduces interest even further. Under more stringent GHG targets these technologies are needed, but the shale gas delays their market role by up to two decades. Thus in the shale boom there is the risk of stunting these programs altogether. While taking advantage of this gift in the short run, treating gas a “bridge” to a low-carbon future, it is crucial not to allow the greater ease of the near-term task to erode efforts to prepare a landing at the other end of the bridge.

As explained in a National Geographic online article:

A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology used economic modeling to show that new abundant natural gas is likely to have a far more complex impact on the energy scene than is generally assumed. If climate policy continues to play out in the United States with a relatively weak set of measures to control emissions, the new gas source will lead to lower gas and electricity prices, and total energy use will be higher in 2050.

Absent the shale supply, the United States could have expected to see GHG emissions 2 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 under this relatively weak policy. But the lower gas prices under the current shale gas outlook will stimulate economic growth, leading GHG emissions to increase by 13 percent over 2005. And the shale gas will retard the growth of renewable energy’s share of electricity, and push off the development of carbon capture and storage technology, needed to meet more ambitious policy targets, by as long as two decades.

“Shale gas is a great advantage to the U.S. in the short term, for the next few decades,” said MIT economist Henry Jacoby, lead author of the new study. “But it is so attractive that it threatens other energy sources we ultimately will need.”


3 Responses to “MIT paper: Shale gas could crowd out clean energy”

  1. sustained outrage says:

    DOE Boss Says Shale Gas Could Be Good For Wind and Solar

    January 18, 2012

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer

    John FunkCLEVELAND–Shale gas and wind turbines?

    The torrent of gas flowing from fracked shale beds doesn’t have to be the death knell for wind and solar power, the nation’s top energy czar said Wednesday.

    New, highly efficient gas turbines can zoom from zero output to 500 million watts in 10 minutes, so they should be integrated into wind farms and giant solar arrays, Steven Chu, secretary of energy explained after an address to the City Club of Cleveland. Read Chu’s prepared remarks.

    The turbines mean that electric utilities that own or buy power from wind and solar fields could shut down some coal-fired power plants, he said.

    Utilities now must keep some of their coal-fired plants burning as “spinning reserve” in order to generate power when the wind stops or clouds pass over a solar field.

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    sustained outrage,

    Here’s a link to that story:


  3. RD Blakeslee says:

    “Giant solar arrays”; “Giant wind farms”.

    Has anyone compared the acreage required for these things with that required for finished well pads delivering equivalent energy? Has anyone compared the visual effect of huge “clean energy” arrays vs the look of finished well pads? Incidentally, most pictures of gas wells in the media these days show them under construction, which is messy, but temporary.

    On the other hand, wind farms are usually shown finished. Trouble is, they need heavy construction equipment and messy site preparation, just like gas wells.

    Political correctness in action, folks!

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