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The impact of shale gas on the costs of climate policy

Jan Kersting, Vicki Duscha, Joachim Schleich and Kimon Keramidas ()

Climate Policy, 2018, vol. 18, issue 4, 442-458

Abstract: The use of shale gas is commonly considered as a low-cost option for meeting ambitious climate policy targets. This article explores global and country-specific effects of increasing global shale gas exploitation on the energy markets, on greenhouse gas emissions, and on mitigation costs. The global techno-economic partial equilibrium model POLES (Prospective Outlook on Long-term Energy Systems) is employed to compare policies which limit global warming to 2°C and baseline scenarios when the availability of shale gas is either high or low. According to the simulation results, a high availability of shale gas has rather small effects on the costs of meeting climate targets in the medium and long term. In the long term, a higher availability of shale gas increases baseline emissions of greenhouse gases for most countries and for the world, and leads to higher compliance costs for most, but not all, countries. Allowing for global trading of emission certificates does not alter these general results. In sum, these findings cast doubt on shale gas’s potential as a low-cost option for meeting ambitious global climate targets.POLICY RELEVANCEMany countries with a large shale gas resource base consider the expansion of local shale gas extraction as an option to reduce their GHG emissions. The findings in this article imply that a higher availability of shale gas in these countries might actually increase emissions and mitigation costs for these countries and also for the world. An increase in shale gas extraction may spur a switch from coal to gas electricity generation, thus lowering emissions. At the global level and for many countries, though, this effect is more than offset by a crowding out of renewable and nuclear energy carriers, and by lower energy prices, leading to higher emissions and higher mitigation costs in turn. These findings would warrant a re-evaluation of the climate strategy in most countries relying on the exploitation of shale gas to meet their climate targets.

Date: 2018
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