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The Potential of U.S. Economic Growth from Unconventional Natural Gas: Report

By Ideas Lab Staff May 8, 2013

In its report on U.S. unconventional gas resources, CSIS says the landscape continues to evolve as new technology and knowledge emerge.

Where do things stand with unconventional natural gas resources in the U.S. today? That is the question the Center for Strategic and International Studies and its Energy and National Security Program undertook to answer in early 2011, calling on regulators, policymakers, industry and financial groups and others to take part in the year-long study.

What they found was that while natural gas resources are abundant here and ready to be tapped, the industry and its regulators have yet to learn “how to optimize the value of the resource”.

Also uncontested in their findings: that together with a lower demand on electricity and greater use of natural gas in industry, greenhouse gas emissions have gone down; and the billions of dollars of investment has led to greater economic opportunities, job growth and aiding the economic recovery.

Writing previously for Ideas Lab, report authors David Pumphrey and Sarah Ladislaw noted that in spite being relatively new on the energy scene, shale gas has already had a significant impact on certain parts of the unconventional gas resources sector and the economy.

“The availability of more affordable, lower-carbon, abundant energy matters because of the opportunity it brings for potential economic, security, and environmental benefits. As a society, we are beginning to experience and understand the wide-spread influence brought about by this development,” they wrote. “However, there remain significant uncertainties regarding the full range of future impacts. While it is clear that natural gas could have a substantial impact, how we think through the next steps is more important than ever.”

Those next steps include greater public awareness, knowledge and acceptance of natural gas development and “proper community engagement at all levels, early and often, and throughout the value chain of gas development”.

So far, existing regulation has enabled existing infrastructure, which has been successfully implemented in the market, the report finds. But more infrastructure development must come, and some of it will be in high population density areas, which will need greater research and a demonstration that risk is being managed responsibly.

Those risks regarding development “are manageable today” the latest report finds, “but understanding risks and evolving cost-effective risk management approaches is a long-term, continuous process.”