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Political and business leaders in West Virginia are furiously working to find ways for the state to cash in with jobs and spinoff industries from the boom in drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
But in Great Britain, scientists are warning policymakers that the experience so far in the United States shows shale-gas drilling causes serious problems.
And, those scientists are cautioning that increased use of natural gas from the drilling boom is not likely to provide the reduced greenhouse emissions proponents say it will.
In a detailed report last month, researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester concluded that "in an energy-hungry world, any new fossil fuel resource will only lead to additional carbon emissions" and delay the introduction of renewable energy alternatives.
"Consequently, if we are serious about our commitment to avoid dangerous climate change, the only safe place for shale gas remains in the ground," said Kevin Anderson, an engineer and researcher director for Tyndall-Manchester's Energy and Climate Change Program.
The Tyndall report concludes that "While shale-gas extraction, at a global level, does not involve the high energy and water inputs at the scale of other unconventional fuels, such as oil derived from tar sands, it does pose significant potential risks to human health and the environment.
"Principally, the potential for hazardous chemicals to enter groundwater via the extraction process must be subject to more thorough research prior to any expansion of the industry being considered," the report said.
"Additionally, while being promoted as a transition route to a low-carbon future, none of the available evidence indicates that this is likely to be the case," the report said. "It is difficult to envisage any situation other than shale gas largely being used in addition to other fossil fuel reserves and adding a further carbon burden. This would be compounded if investment in shale gas were to delay the necessary investment in zero- and very low-carbon technologies."
In their push for more natural gas, drilling operators are increasingly using a process called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break apart rock and release the gas. More frequently, this process also involves drilling down and then turning horizontally.
West Virginia leaders are hoping this practice expands as gas companies seek to tap into vast reserves contained in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that stretches across 95,000 square miles from southern New York and into eastern Ohio.
Last week, acting governor Earl Ray Tomblin formed a "Marcellus to Manufacturing" task force aimed at encouraging spinoff chemical plants related to the natural-gas boom.