News FocusENERGY

Natural Gas From Shale Bursts Onto the Scene

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1624-1626
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5986.1624

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Engineering ingenuity is unlocking a vast storehouse of natural gas buried beneath American soil from Texas to New England. The sudden great promise of clean, homegrown shale gas has all kinds of people excited. National-security types see it as a replacement for foreign oil and gas, environmentalists as a replacement for dirty coal and even oil. And because it yields only 45% of the carbon dioxide emissions of coal, advocates of taming global warming see it as a temporary crutch while carbon-free energy sources are developed and deployed. Everyone seems to agree with a March study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates that concluded that shale gas "provides the potential to transform North America's energy landscape." The problem is that word "potential." Every link in the chain between the newly abundant domestic energy source and its transformative impact is still shrouded in uncertainty. And a rising tide of NUMBY—not under my backyard—that's greeting shale gas in the Northeast could hobble the revolution (see sidebar).