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Opening Remarks at the IEA Workshop on Golden Rules for Unconventional Energy Prospects


Remarks
Robert F. Cekuta
Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources
University of Warsaw Library
Warsaw, Poland
March 7, 2012

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Thank you Mr. Deputy Prime Minister and please let me first of all warmly thank Poland’s Ministry of the Economy, Mexico’s Ministry of Energy, and the International Energy Agency for developing and hosting today’s event.

Today’s is exactly the sort of meeting which can be extremely useful in advancing both global energy security and global economic well being.

The United States has greatly benefitted from this development of shale gas and other unconventional gas resources. As President Obama said in his State of the Union address this past January, we now estimate that the United States has a supply of natural gas which can last America for 100 years. In 2009, the United States became the world’s leading producers of natural gas, to a significant degree because of the judicious use of new technologies that made once inaccessible deposits of natural gas able to be opened, tapped, and developed.

As a result of the development of unconventional natural gas, the United States may well begin exporting natural gas – LNG – by 2014 or 2015. Experts now speak of the United States being self sufficient in natural gas by 2035. Development of unconventional gas resources, resources which amount to over half the U.S. natural gas resources, will support over 600,000 jobs in the United States by the end of this decade.

I should join other speakers in pointing to the benefits in natural gas, a fuel that can back out others that are higher in GHG emissions and other pollutants when burned. Along these lines, there is a considerable amount of attention focused on the further development of natural gas as a fuel for transportation. There is also already a sense that the development of unconventional natural gas has rejuvenated the chemical industry in the United States with experts suggesting we could see a repeat of the 1920’s when the discoveries of oil and natural gas in the United States produced all sorts of breakthroughs and innovations in the chemical sector.

However, we also need to bear in mind the important reality that the development of unconventional natural gas, like the development or realization of other industrial or extractive processes, needs to be done carefully with due attention to potential downsides.

In the United States, this has meant the government, civil society, and private sector enterprises paying attention to the environmental factors associated with the development of natural gas. It has meant particular attention being given to all the aspects of water usage associated with the development of unconventional gas. It has meant study of reports that certain seismic events may be associated with the tapping of shale gas. It has meant too attention and study of the impacts that development of shale or other unconventional natural gas can have on communities and a society. These impacts include the influx of people to areas that had previously been less populated or had been losing population.

It means realizing and taking into account the fact technologies for developing shale or other unconventional gas are not static, but rather are changing and we need to be thinking about how to take into account these technologies and engineering innovations. Awareness of these factors highlights that we need to be attentive to the various technical, environmental, and social aspects that accompany development of unconventional natural gas deposits.

In the United States we have been continuing to work to understand these aspects of the development of unconventional gas and to act upon what we have learned. With the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production, the U.S. has sought to develop – and to share – best practices from government, private, and public sectors. My colleague from Department of Energy, DAS Chris Smith, will be discussing the work of this group later on today.

Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting an on- going study on hydraulic fracturing and its possible impacts on drinking water. Again, the United States is pursuing science-based studies to inform policy making as well as the discussions taking place among the public on unconventional gas.

We are engaging with others countries which may have significant shale or other unconventional gas. In doing so, we make a conscious effort to acquaint them with a much variety of views. Our sense is that there needs to be informed dialogue if we are to get out ahead of potential problems in unconventional gas development.

If are all talking about rules here today, I would like to urge that we look at the experience in the United States, including the need for the involvement, the engagement, of the various stake-holders. I would argue as well that just as the work will continue on the technical and engineering aspects of developing unconventional gas deposits, work will need to continue on the rules applying to how these deposits are developed. I would strongly urge that development of any regulations take into account sound science as a basis.

Our conviction is that if developed in a responsible, environmentally sound manner, unconventional gas can have a beneficial impact on the global energy outlook just as it has had in the United States.

Thank you.



PRN: 2011/1951



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