U.S. Government Accountability Office. October 1, 2014.

Since 2010, of 35 applications it has received that require a public interest review, the Department of Energy (DOE) has approved 3 applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) and 6 applications are conditionally approved with final approval contingent on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) issuance of a satisfactory environmental review of the export facility. DOE considers a range of factors to determine whether each application is in the public interest. After the first application was conditionally approved in 2011, DOE commissioned a study to help it determine whether additional LNG exports were in the public interest. Since the 16-month study was published in December 2012, DOE issued 7 conditional approvals (one of which became final) and 1 other final approval (see fig. below). In August 2014, DOE suspended its practice of issuing conditional approvals; instead, DOE will review applications after FERC completes its environmental review.

http://gao.gov/assets/670/666177.pdf Full Text [PDF format, 31 pages].

World Resources Institute. September 2014.

For many nations around the world, shale gas represents an opportunity to strengthen energy security while cutting emissions. In fact, shale gas adds 47 percent to the world’s natural gas reserves. But as governments and businesses explore this new and abundant resource, freshwater availability is a key challenge they must address. Extracting oil or natural gas from shale poses a number of risks to the environment and requires large quantities of nearby water. Much of this water is needed for fracturing the shale to allow hydrocarbons to flow to the surface. This report analyzes water availability across all potentially commercial shale resources worldwide. It also reveals that water availability could limit shale resource development on every continent except Antarctica. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/wri14_report_shalegas.pdf [PDF format, 88 pages].

Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues

On September 23, 2014, in Energy, Environment, by editor1

Congressional Research Service. September 18, 2014.

Energy policy in the United States has focused on three major goals: assuring a secure supply of energy, keeping energy costs low, and protecting the environment. In pursuit of those goals, government programs have been developed to improve the efficiency with which energy is utilized, to promote the domestic production of conventional energy sources, and to develop new energy sources, particularly renewable sources. Implementing these programs has been controversial because of varying importance given to different aspects of energy policy. For some, dependence on imports of foreign oil, particularly from the Persian Gulf, is the primary concern; for others, the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels, whatever their origin, is most important. The contribution of burning fossil fuels to global climate change is particularly controversial. Another dichotomy is between those who see government intervention as a positive force and those who view it as a necessary evil at best.

http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/232517.pdf [PDF format, 11 pages].

Resources for the Future. June 2014.

Booming production of oil and gas from shale, enabled by hydraulic fracturing technology, has led to tension between hoped-for economic benefits and feared environmental and other costs, with great associated controversy. Study of how policy can best react to these challenges and how it can balance risk and reward has focused on prescriptive regulatory responses and, to a somewhat lesser extent, voluntary industry best practices. While there is undoubtedly room for improved regulation, innovative tools are relatively understudied. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

http://www.rff.org/RFF/Documents/RFF-DP-14-15.pdf [PDF format, 24 pages].

U.S. Department of Agriculture. December 16, 2013.

A decade of higher energy prices and the expectation that high prices will persist have encouraged policymakers to promote domestic energy production. Three growing energy industries in the United States are unconventional gas (gas located in rock formations like shale that is impractical to extract with conventional methods), wind, and corn-based ethanol. From 2000 to 2010, all three industries more than doubled their output, with most of the growth occurring in rural areas with natural gas and abundant land for wind turbines and corn fields. Economic Research Service estimates suggest that counties where these industries expanded significantly experienced net gains in employment.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2013-december/energy-development’s-impacts-on-rural-employment-growth.aspx [HTML format].