Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shale Gas - Economic Boon or Environmental Disaster?

Welcome to the Collaborative Revolution!

Natural gas enjoyed a short a run as an acceptable "green energy" source in the early 2000s but has, of late been criticized by many environmentalists.  To determine its viability as an energy source the risks associated with exploration, estraction, production, transportation, delivery and use must be balanced against the detrimental effects of those activities.  In the law, when pursuing or defending a products liability claims, lawyers often ask jurors to balance the utility of a product against the risks associated with the use of the product.  I view the query regarding the risk / benefit analysis of natural gas as an energy source in much the same way.

Rather than argue the pros and cons of the issue in depth myself I am simply going to post links, with brief comments, to sources arguing the pros and cons and leave it to the readers of the blog to self-educate on the topic.

The first item I will link to is an editorial published in USA Today titled "Fracking' with care holds key to energy future" which argues the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.  The USA Editorial Board argues:

"This technique [fracing] has brought a surprising amount of new gas production from states as disparate as Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania — enough combined with conventional supplies to last perhaps 100 years at current consumption rates.
That's game-changing, wildly underdiscussed news. Gas now meets only about a quarter of the nation's energy needs, much of it for home heating and industrial use. But if estimates of shale gas reserves are correct — and they seem to just get bigger — gas could begin to displace oil as a fuel for vehicles and might even help unseat coal as the nation's dominant fuel for generating electricity. Price pressures would ease; dependence on unstable supplies of foreign oil could decline."

The following video accompanies the editorial.

USA Today published a piece at the same time that argued we should, "Ban Fracking Now."  The author, Josh Fox, has also produced a documentary titled "Gasland" in which he advances the argument set forth in his editorial.  Below is a trailer for the documentary.

My view is these vast reserves of gas shale will be developed regardless of the merits - or lack thereof - of Mr. Fox's documentary because the economics of these shale gas plays are too compelling to ignore.  In the coming days I will link to more resources and comment further on the economic realities of these gas plays. 

Meanwhile, I will leave readers with the following thoughts.  If significant gas plays are inevitable in 32 countries around the world and in the US wouldn't it be prudent to inject a bit of IPD, BIM and lean thinking into the process?  Wouldn't the communities, contractors, suppliers, landowners and others who are touched by the development of these shale gas resources benefit from access to fully functional digital assets associated with the developments in their communities?  Those of us who want to see integrated project delivery, BIM and lean processes weilded for good have an obligation to step to the plate in these communtiies and deliver on the promise of these innovative new bsuiness processes.

The energy industry has significant experience utilizing virtual design and construction tools and this represents a golden opportunity to lead by example in the communities where these shale gays plays are unfolding. 

Again, I will post more on this topic soon.
James L. Salmon, Esq.
Collaborative Construction
300 Pike Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Office 513-721-5672
Fax 513-562-4388
Cell 512-630-4446
Collaborative Construction Website
Sustainable Land Development International

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