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May 29th, 2012:

Natural Gas Usage Raises Pollution Issues, IEA Says

American Energy Coalition - May 29th, 2012

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that environmental concerns must be resolved if the United States and other countries are going to increase their dependence on natural gas, according to report by Bloomberg. 

The news service quotes the IEA as reporting that annual extraction of natural gas from unconventional resources may triple to 1.6 trillion cubic meters in 2035 to account for 32 percent of all gas production, up from 14 percent this year. "That figure will only be reached if companies and regulators are transparent, monitor environmental impacts and take the concerns of local communities seriously, according to the report," Bloomberg wrote. 

"The concerns of local communities are legitimate ones," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA in Paris, told Bloomberg. "There are some companies that are following the rules we are suggesting here. The destiny of the shale-gas industry will be decided not by the best practices but by the worst practices." 

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the practice of pumping water, sand and chemicals into wells to extract gas from hard-to-exploit shale rock, helped the U.S. overtake Russia as the world's biggest producer of the fuel, the article states. The global potential of shale resources has been stymied after France and Bulgaria banned the practice and activity was suspended in the U.K., Bloomberg reports. 

Bloomberg quoted IEA as saying that following best-practice guidelines as proposed by the IEA will add about 7 percent to production costs. The environmental group Greenpeace told Bloomberg that the IEA's report doesn't sufficiently evaluate the climatic implications of its guidelines. 

"It fails to provide hard rules to prevent methane leakage from unconventional gas production or hard evidence that leakage can be reduced to acceptable levels," Paul Johnston, the environmental group's chief scientist, said in the statement. "Greenpeace opposes the exploitation of unconventional gas reserves because the impacts have not been fully investigated, understood, addressed and regulated." 

Birol told Bloomberg that U.S. natural gas prices aren't sustainable and need to rise to about $4.50 per million British thermal units. 

To read the Bloomberg article, click here.

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