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Geoscientist Online

Risks, Rewards and Regulation of Unconventional Gas: A Global Perspective

sfdgh‘Unconventional gas’ - a term so hot, it evokes those now notorious images of flaming water taps in Pennsylvania. But the quest for unconventional gas is a worldwide phenomenon.  Now, it is Poland’s turn to face all the possible trials and tribulations of extracting it from reluctant rock. Michael Labelle highlights (in Chapter 14 of this comprehensive, unreserved book) how in that country, once again, it is lack of governance, risk analysis and technology deployment that lie at the root of all problems.

Of course, it would be impossible to discuss the risks, rewards, successes and failures of unconventional gas without mentioning the country that currently leads the unconventional gas world – namely, the USA. Famous for their unquestionable success in exploiting and utilising shale gas (while unintentionally damaging the environment - a topic heavily publicised by the media), the book resists repeating all this, and instead sensibly focuses the USA sections on political and economic issues - an aspect less often covered in more sensationalist accounts.

With the words ‘risk’ and ‘unconventional gas’ in the title, it is a tough book to review – and a brave one to let loose into a world full of judgement and critique but often short on facts and understanding. When opinions become so entrenched, factual science struggles to have any effect on people whose minds are made up and whose attitude to new sources of hydrocarbons is part of their identity. As John Adams puts it: “facts are stubborn things, but our minds are even more stubborn”.

This book fights against this tendency.  It does not shy from controversy, but delivers an honest and sober view of the past, present and future of unconventional gas. It does not aim overtly to alter opinions but, steering clear of polemic, conveys an array of scientific, social, political and economic facts to help dispassionate readers weigh up the pros and cons for themselves.

Despite much political terminology, a text heavily laden with acronyms, and a slightly confusing layout, it is the ideal book for anyone wishing to develop an unbiased, factual understanding of the exploitation of unconventional gas globally. It takes a unique approach by comparing countries’ differing viewpoints on unconventional gas and their different regulatory regimes, providing an opportunity, perhaps, for countries to learn from one another’s mistakes – and successes.

It should prove a valuable text for governments, researchers and energy-enthusiasts alike.

Reviewed by Olivia Milton-Thompson

RISKS, REWARDS AND REGULATION OF UNCONVENTIONAL GAS: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE edited by R QUENTIN GRAFTON, IAN G CRONSHAW AND MICHAL C MOORE, 2017. Published by: Cambridge University Press 494pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781107120082 List Price: £71.99. W: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316341209