With the European Commission having just timidly reopened the door to renewed exploitation of shale gas in Europe “provided that ‘minimum principles’ are met, particularly with regard to health and the environment” (Recommendation of 22 January 2014), what lessons can we take today from the experience of other nations, particularly the USA, who were the first to travel down this new energy path a little more than a decade ago? Drawing, in particular, on the most recent literature on the subject, Pierre Papon is at pains here to take stock of this major issue, which has already begun to re-cast the global energy landscape and might have major economic and geopolitical consequences in the medium and long term.
After reminding us of the nature of this unconventional gas and the conditions for its exploitation, together with the USA’s highly optimistic projections for the future, he highlights the economic advantage the production of shale gas affords that country at both the national and global levels thanks to a knock-on effect of improved competitiveness in certain industries. Papon goes on to specify the environmental concerns that remain and the technical alternatives that are to be envisaged for exploiting shale gas. Lastly, he outlines the issues and perspectives for Europe and France, provided that other lines of research can be explored with regard to the exploitation of this resource. At the same time he reminds us of the need to be vigilant about the future: this is essential if we are to remain aware of the inherent risks in this field, but also not overlook any technical advance that might afford an opportunity to exploit shale gas on this side of the Atlantic.