Under one scenario, they found that gas prices would rise by about five times their current levels by 2050 without shale gas. Electricity prices would also grow. With shale gas included in the mix, gas prices would only double. The shale input also reduces electricity price growth by 5 percent in 2030 and 10 percent in 2045, compared to a scenario without shale gas.
But the researchers also found reason for concern that shale gas use would crowd out development of renewable energy sources.
Under one scenario, the researchers imposed a renewable-fuel mandate. The found that, with shale gas, renewable use never goes beyond the 25 percent minimum standard they set. But when shale gas is removed from the market, renewable fuels gain more ground.
The paper notes that, without new regulatory restrains, there is little interest in developing technologies such as carbon capture and storage, or CCS, and that "the shale gas reduces interest even further."
"The gas 'revolution' has important implications for the direction and intensity of national efforts to develop and deploy low-emission technologies, like CCS for coal and gas," the MIT paper said.
Under strict limits on greenhouse gases, renewable sources such as wind are needed, but shale gas development delays such sources by up to two decades, the study said. "While taking advantage of this [shale gas] gift in the short term, treating gas as a 'bridge' to a low-carbon future, it is crucial not to allow the greater ease of the near-term task to erode efforts to prepare a landing at the other end of the bridge."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.