With nuclear energy in current disfavor and renewables as an alternative source still down the road, natural gas has become a favorite alternative. This comes at a price because increased gas consumption has magnified the leverage of Russia and countries such as Iran.
Now the Baker Institute for Public policy at Rice University has published a study "Shale Gas and US National Security" that hails the fracturing of shale deposits to produce natural gas as potential transition technology for at least a generation.
According to the study, the estimates of gas available from shale have quadrupled since 2003 while the costs of its extraction have decreased markedly. This will cut US dependence on the imports of natural gas to a minimum and terminals that had been readied for the import of natural gas are submitting permits for exporting it.
If the United States will stop importing liquefied natural gas, this will enable Europe to drastically reduce its dependency on the imports of gas from Russia. According to the Institute.
If shale gas is exploited, Europe in 2040 will import 13% of its gas from Russia as opposed to 27% today.
Another benefit is that the lengthy gas pipelines for transporting gas from Iran will no longer be economically feasible, thus reducing Iran's influence on the energy markets. Countries that have hitherto flouted US sanctions on Iran for fear of antagonizing Tehran and jeopardizing their energy security will be less intimidated.
Finally, the abundance of liquefied natural gas as will reduce US domestic energy costs and, according to the study, help countries reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
The Baker Institute study is unique in exploring the geopolitical repercussions of fracturing or "fracking" shale deposits. Other studies favoring the technology have pointed to the economic benefits and job opportunities produced --no small matter in the currently ailing American economy.
The fracturing is opposed by environmental groups because the chemicals used in the drilling that injects water into the shale deposits are considered to be potential contaminants to the water supply.
Some states are trying to get the drilling companies to display transparency and enact regulations that will protect the environment and public safety.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a potential Republican presidential nominee, last week required energy companies to disclose the ingredients of hydraulic fracturing fluid to the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the energy sector.
In the European Union the debate is also expected to heat up. Poland, current rotating president of the EU, has substantial shale deposits and has a very keen interest in reducing dependence on Russian energy.