NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Everything You've Heard about Fossil Fuels May Be Wrong

June 7, 2011

In the last decade the technique of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," long used in the oil industry, has evolved to permit energy companies to access reserves of previously-unrecoverable "shale gas," or unconventional natural gas.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these advances mean there is at least six times as much recoverable natural gas today as there was a decade ago, says Michael Lind, policy director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation.

The implications for energy security are startling.  And natural gas may be only the beginning.  Fracking also permits the extraction of previously-unrecoverable "tight oil," thereby postponing the day when the world runs out of petroleum.

  • If gas hydrates as well as shale gas, tight oil, oil sands and other unconventional sources can be tapped at reasonable cost, then the global energy picture looks radically different than it did only a few years ago.
  • Suddenly it appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia, to come.

In the meantime, it appears that the prophets of an age of renewable energy got things backwards.  We may be living in the era of "Peak Renewables," which will be followed by a very long age of fossil fuels that has only just begun, says Lind.

Source: Michael Lind, "Everything You've Heard about Fossil Fuels May Be Wrong,", May 31, 2011.


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