The American energy landscape has been fundamentally remade by the shale energy renaissance, and both our GDP and total emissions are thankful for it. To date, this extraordinary success story has stayed stateside, despite the best efforts of many foreign players hell-bent on recreating the energy renaissance for themselves. Our friends over at the Breakthrough Institute explain what’s going wrong with shale abroad:
The large deployment of fracking technology faces significant hurdles outside of the US context. China’s nascent industry is plagued by technical bottlenecks, lack of adequate water supply, and poor infrastructure. Drilling an exploratory shale gas well in China still costs much more than it does in the United States. In Europe, the challenges are more likely to be political and legal. Unlike in the United States, European landowners do not automatically own the rights to extract the resources from the ground beneath their property, making the building of new extraction plants fraught with political difficulties.
But just because the shale boom today remains a uniquely American phenomenon doesn’t mean it won’t eventually spread. BI continues:
[…T]he transfer of expertise and technical knowledge (rather than merely dropping in hardware) is critical to accelerating diffusion. Countries have tried to do this by attracting the expertise of US firms. Mexico, for example, has opened up its oil and gas sector to foreign investment in order to acquire the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques that can help it access one of the world’s largest reserves of shale gas and tight oil. And a Chinese energy company, Sinopec Group, paid Devon Energy…billions of dollars to work with it on fuel extractions projects, in the hope of gaining access to the US firm’s expertise.
A number of hurdles remains—both regulatory and geological—but where there’s a will, and a potentially enormous (and relatively green) energy boom, there’s a way. In the meantime, the U.S. will continue to enjoy a massive head start.