Step on the gas with shale

Sep 06 2013, 05:22 IST
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SummaryShale gas is catching on with the rest of the world. India needs to frame exploration-utilisation policies for its reserves fast

Bruce Nussbaum, in his book World after Oil, published in the early 1980s, dealt with the oil crisis of 1970s, when oil prices had risen from $5 to $30 per barrel, and showed how the world dealt with the crisis by investing more in exploration, especially on the high seas, and severely reduced energy consumption. Thus, oil prices remained stable for many years, and started rising again in the 2000s once new finds reduced. I recall Swaminathan Aiyars Challenge of Hubberts Peak (ET, May 21, 2005), in which he said oil prices will rise fast, and the world production will not be able to meet the rising demand of China and India. American geophysicist M King Hubbert had predicted in the 1950s that US oil production would peak (Hubbert peak after which production declines) in 1970, and it did. The entire world then started looking at the far more expensive options of nuclear and non-conventional power, which would have thwarted growth rates.

Stephen Leeb first attracted world opinion on the issue of energy crises with his book The Oil Factor, published in 2004. In it, he had predicted an outlandish price of $100/barrel for crude by the end of the decade. When prices started rising much faster than anticipated, he wrote another bestseller in 2006, The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel.

Fortunately, the technologists, as always, have come to the rescue again and have won. The world energy crisis has now been postponed by several decades, at least to 100-150 years, particularly for the US, which determines the crude oil price and supply benchmarks for the whole world owing to its huge consumption. Events leading to the change have taken place at a truly fascinating speed.

I went to the US for some meetings in 2009 when all US policymakers seemed to suggest that shale gasthe new energy findwould not take off due to its huge environmental implications. The horrifying implications, then, were that one could light up running tap water in some states where work on shale gas was going on, and this was just not acceptable. Other countries including India also had huge reservations. Come 2013, just four years later, the entire scenario has changed due to newer developing technologies, particularly in the US where huge work is under way on shale gas development, with huge reduction in environmental effects.

Today, shale gas

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