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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Shale gas changes everything

Some people think I am obsessed by the shale gas revolution and that I might be exaggerating its significance.

Well, if anything I'm underplaying it.

The International Energy Agency says so. Here's what it says (from UPI):

"Production of 'unconventional' gas in the U.S. has rocketed in the past few years, going beyond even the most optimistic forecasts," said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a gas analyst at the IEA. "It is no wonder that its success has sparked such international interest."

Shale gas production in the United States is booming and the IEA estimates that unconventional gas makes up around 12 percent of the global supply.

Global supplies of natural gas could last for another 130 years at current consumption rates. That time frame could double with unconventional gas, the IEA said.

"(D)espite the many uncertainties associated with production, countries are still prepared to take risks and invest time and money in exploration and production, because of the potential long-term benefits," Corbeau said.

and here's more (from the BBC):

[Dr Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency] also warned that efforts to tackle climate change through renewable energy were under threat from the world revolution in unconventional gas sources. He said the shale gas boom in the US has already led to a gas rush which had contributed to a 50% drop in investment in renewable energy.

And the US boom, he said, had a knock-on global effect. The fact that the US has suddenly found that it is independent in gas supplies means it doesn't have to import gas.

That means the nations gearing up to sell gas to the US have to find other markets, which is forcing down prices.

"There's suddenly much more gas available in the world than previously thought," he told BBC News.

"It's cheaper than it was and the supply is more assured. And it's only half as polluting as coal. There will be strong debates between energy and climate and finance ministries round the world about whether investment should continue to support renewables when the situation on gas has so radically changed."