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Plenty Left To Learn About Fracking

Publication Date: 
March 02, 2014
Sunday Herald (Glasgow, UK)
Scott Wright

Dan Reicher, director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, comments on the unknown long-term effects of fracking on the environment for The Sunday Herald.

The widespread adoption of hydraulic fracturing by states across the US has significantly reduced the price of natural gas across the Atlantic since 2008, tapping into a resource feared to be close to running out in the early 1990s.

But Dan Reicher, executive director of Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, insists its impact on the environment and its future as a long-term energy source for the US is still unknown.

Speaking after delivering a low carbon masterclass, sponsored by The Herald and Scottish Enterprise, Reicher said: “Not too many years ago, we did not think this resource was there; we didn’t think we were going to develop it. Now it is being developed in a fairly aggressive way.

”The environmental questions remain significant. Carbon emissions is one of them, also methane emission – a very potent greenhouse gas … whereas some carbon emissions questions are fairly well understood, the science of this one isn’t.

”We do know there are some significant carbon emissions along the way, the question is, is this the right way to displace coal, and where is it taking us?

”What’s the mix going to look like? Is this a 10-year cycle? Is this a 50-year cycle? It remains an open question.”

Asked what the nascent fracking sector in the UK could learn from the US experience, Reicher said: “It is important to understand the challenges and the opportunities going in, strike the right balance in terms of understanding the technologies, understanding the regulatory structure, addressing public concerns.”