"The Next Frontier in United States Unconventional Shale Gas and Tight Oil Extraction: Strategic Reduction of Environmental Impact"
The unconventional fossil fuel extraction industry—in the U.S., primarily shale gas and tight oil—is expected to continue expanding dramatically in coming decades as conventionally recoverable reserves wane. At the global scale, a long-term domestic supply of natural gas is expected to yield environmental benefits over alternative sources of fossil energy. At the local level, however, the environmental impacts of shale gas and tight oil development may be significant. The development of technology, management practices, and regulatory policies that mitigate the associated environmental impacts of shale gas development is quickly becoming the next frontier in U.S. unconventional fossil resource extraction.
Expanding estimates of North America’s supply of accessible shale gas, and more recently, shale oil, have been trumpeted in many circles as the most significant energy resource development since the oil boom in Texas in the late 1920s. How large are these resources? What challenges will need to be overcome if their potential is to be realized? How will they impact U.S. energy policy?
To address these questions, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and two of its programs ― the Environment and Natural Resources Program and the Geopolitics of Energy Project ― convened a group of experts from business, government, and academia on May 1, 2012, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following report summarizes the major issues discussed at this workshop. Since the discussions were off-the-record, no comments are attributed to any individual. Rather, this report attempts to summarize the arguments on all sides of the issues.
By Joseph E. Aldy, Faculty Affiliate, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements and Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government; Member of the Board; Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
Because of the global commons nature of climate change, international cooperation among nations will likely be necessary for meaningful action at the global level. At the same time, it will inevitably be up to the actions of sovereign nations to put in place policies that bring about meaningful reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases. Due to the ubiquity and diversity of emissions of greenhouse gases in most economies, as well as the variation in abatement costs among individual sources, conventional environmental policy approaches, such as uniform technology and performance standards, are unlikely to be sufficient to the task. Therefore, attention has increasingly turned to market-based instruments in the form of carbon-pricing mechanisms. We examine the opportunities and challenges associated with the major options for carbon pricing: carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, emission reduction credits, clean energy standards, and fossil fuel subsidy reductions.
For the past forty years, United States Presidents have repeatedly called for a reduction in the country's dependence on fossil fuels in general and foreign oil specifically. Some officials advocate the electrification of the passenger vehicle fleet as a path to meeting this goal. The Obama administration has embraced a goal of having one million electric-powered vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, while others proposed a medium-term goal where electric vehicles would consist of 20% of the passenger vehicle fleet by 2030 — approximately 30 million electric vehicles. The technology itself is not in question; many of the global automobile companies are planning to sell plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and/or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2012. The key question is, will Americans buy them?
This study examines the legal, regulatory and financial issues encountered in nine planned commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects under Phase III of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSP) Program. In Phase III of the RCSP, financial issues dominated the outcomes in these projects, directly causing termination of three of the projects and contributing to termination in two others. Long-term liability and lack of coordination among regulatory authorities also posed significant barriers.
By C. Edward Huang, Former Research Fellow, Environment and Natural Resources Program/Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2009–2010
One question about the 2009 U.S. "Cash for Clunkers" program is whether it induced consumers to purchase greener vehicles than they would otherwise have purchased. This paper views the program as a natural experiment, which offered higher rebates to consumers buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, and shows that awarding an extra $1,000 on a vehicle made 7.2% of consumers switch. Hence the program - giving away nearly $3 billion - should have drawn many consumers to the subsidized greener vehicles, producing substantial environmental gains. This finding should interest policymakers evaluating similar programs to stimulate the economy while benefiting the environment.
"Governmental Energy Innovation Investments, Policies and Institutions in the Major Emerging Economies: Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, China, and South Africa"
By Ruud Kempener, Former Research Fellow, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2009–2011, Laura Diaz Anadon, Associate Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program; Director, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group; Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Jose Condor Tarco, Former Research Fellow, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2008–2009
Over the past decade, countries with emerging economies like Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, China, and South Africa have become important global players in political and economic domains. In 2007, these six countries consumed and produced more than a third of the world's energy and emitted about 35 percent of total greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. The changing global energy landscape has important implications for energy technology innovation (ETI) nationally and internationally. However, there is limited information available about the investments and initiatives that are taking place by the national governments within these countries. This paper presents the information available on energy RD&D investments in the emerging economies.
By Erik Mielke, Former Research Fellow, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2010–2011, Laura Diaz Anadon, Associate Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program; Director, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group; Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Venkatesh "Venky" Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy; Professor of Physics, Harvard; Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program; Co-Principal Investigator, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group
This paper provides an overview of water consumption for different sources of energy, including extraction, processing, and conversion of resources, fuels, and technologies. The primary focus of this paper is to summarize the consumptive use of water for different sources of energy. Where appropriate, levels of water withdrawals are also discussed, especially in the context of cooling of thermoelectric power plants.
By Mohammed Al-Juaied, Former Visiting Scholar, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2008–2009
This paper looks at ten different forms of public support for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies including investment tax credits, accelerated depreciation, production tax credits, loan guarantees, capital grants, allowance allocations, and storage tax credits. The paper compares the cost reduction potential of each option against a conventional coal-to-electricity facility without CCS.
By Henry Lee, Director, Environment and Natural Resources Program, Jose Gomez-Ibanez, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning; Faculty Affiliate, Environment and Natural Resources Program, C. Edward Huang, Former Research Fellow, Environment and Natural Resources Program/Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2009–2010 and Grant Lovellette
The report is a summary of the discussions from a workshop on "Transportation Revenue Options" convened by the Belfer Center in May 2010. The workshop brought together 27 transportation experts for a two-day workshop to discuss three broad revenue-generating options: higher fuel taxes — perhaps supplemented by a carbon tax; fees collected based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT); and congestion fees on major roadways.