Here's a story that’s crept up on me unawares. Fracking for shale gas. Until a Guardian feature last Thursday I thought this was just the latest get rich quick scheme for oil companies, and that a few well aimed protests about ground water pollution would hopefully see it off. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I've clearly not been paying close enough attention.
An attack on a pipeline during the Iraq war. Photograph: Jamal Nasrallah/EPA
"Gazprom feels the chill as its dominance is weakened" tells that shale oil and shale gas are so plentiful in North America, that they offer the US self-sufficiency in energy which could end American reliance on despotic Gulf regimes and pull the rug from under Russia’s Gazprom. This is a massive prize.
The point is that not only is the extraction process environmentally destructive in itself, but the burning of all this shale gas and oil entails greenhouse gas emissions that will far outstrip our ability to adapt to the climate change they will cause. See Friends of the Earth briefing “Shale gas: energy solution or fracking hell?” and another Guardian feature Shale offers freedom and security – but it could be a trap.
In his victory speech Barack Obama used the expression "the destructive power of a warming planet" and thereby raised expectations of climate change action in his second term. But other indicators all point the other way. In his first term he made a strategic decision to downplay climate change; he avoided the issue during the recent campaign; and the Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives.
If the prize for shale oil extraction is as massive as the Guardian article says it is, then it's going to be like a gale blowing on a reed.