Studie des Forschungsinstituts „Resources for the Future“ zu den Umweltrisiken der Schiefergasförderung, Februar 2013 (engl. Originalfassung)
Exploiting the natural gas contained in shale formations has lowered the cost of electricity, industrial feedstock, and residential and commercial energy and has even spurred the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. Nevertheless, shale gas development is extremely controversial, in part because the potential health and environmental risks related to the drilling and production activities are not well understood. Experts at Resources for the Future (RFF) have been examining these risks from multiple perspectives to provide objective research to help leaders make informed decisions on these issues. This report is the first survey-based, statistical analysis of experts from government agencies, industry, academia, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify the priority environmental risks related to shale gas development—those for which the experts believe government regulation and/or voluntary industry practices are currently inadequate to protect the public or the environment. The results stand in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of much of the public debate. For example, a key finding is the high degree of consensus among experts about the specific risks to mitigate. These “consensus risks” are those that survey respondents from all four expert groups most frequently identified as priorities for further regulatory or voluntary action. Although this survey does not rank any of the potential risks by level of importance, the results do indicate that progress toward productive dialogues may be most likely achieved around these consensus risks. Several of the consensus risks pertain to impacts that have received relatively little attention in the popular debate. For example, the experts frequently identified the potential impacts on lakes, rivers, and streams (surface water) as a priority; less frequently, they identified potential risks to underground aquifers (groundwater). In fact, only 2 of the consensus risks identified by the experts are unique to the shale gas development process, and both have potential impacts on surface water. The remaining 10 consensus risks relate to practices common to gas and oil development in general, such as the construction of roads, well pads, and pipelines and the potential for leaks in casing and cementing. These findings provide industry leaders, policymakers, and the public with a firm starting place for further dialogue in balancing the benefits and risks of shale gas development.
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