Table of Contents

Shale Gas and the Future of Energy

Shale Gas and the Future of Energy

Law and Policy for Sustainability

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Edited by John C. Dernbach and James R. May

The rapid growth of shale gas development has led to an intense and polarizing debate about its merit. At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, countries around the world concluded that the transition to sustainability must be accelerated. This book asks and suggests answers to the question that has not yet been systematically analysed: what laws and policies are needed to ensure that shale gas development helps to accelerate the transition to sustainability?

Chapter 1: Framing the sustainability questions

John C. Dernbach

Subjects: environment, energy policy and regulation, environmental management, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, energy law, environmental law


Few energy issues in recent decades have proven as contentious as shale gas. Supporters and opponents often speak in such strikingly divergent terms that they seem to be describing different activities. Typically, supporters point to the economic and security impacts of shale gas, and minimize the adverse environmental and social effects. Opponents often point to negative environmental and social impacts, and downplay the economic and security effects. This chapter explains sustainable development as an essential framework for providing a more complete understanding of whether shale gas contributes to overall human well-being. Key questions are whether shale gas development is sustainable and, if not, whether law and policy can actually make shale gas development sustainable. As this chapter also explains, it is not enough to make some progress toward sustainability. Key further questions are whether shale gas can help accelerate the transition to sustainability and, if so, how. These are the questions this book attempts to answer.