Obama backs shale gas in State of the Union speech

President Obama gave a ringing endorsement of shale gas in his State of the Union address last night while vowing to tighten the rules on its extraction.

And he also pledged to boost the country’s renewables manufacturing industry to ensure it did not lose ground for foreign competitors such as China.

After stating that the US needed a “strategy that develops every available source of American energy” that is “cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs”, he said: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”

He said that developments in shale gas extraction over the past 30 years had proved to be a public-funded research success story, “reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground”.

But he added that ” America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk” and said that from now on he would be “requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use”.

He also vowed that he would not “walk away from the promise of clean energy” and added: “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.”

Obama’s backing of shale gas came under attack from environmental group Earthworks.

Executive Director Jennifer Krill said: “His statement made no mention of a growing body of evidence that drilling has serious known consequences, and much of those impacts have yet to be studied. Promoting gas production in the face of such evidence effectively prioritises the profits of the oil and gas industry over the communities’ health, their drinking water, and the environment.”

In November, the government’s Shale Gas Advisory Panel stated that “If action is not taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the very considerable expansion of shale gas production expected across the country there is a real risk of serious environmental consequences.”

Last week Bulgaria joined France in legislating a ban on the exploration of shale gas. In the UK last year an investigation by independent European experts concluded that it was highly probable that ‘fracking’ ” the method by which gas is extracted from shale rock ” hadà‚  caused seismic tremors in Lancashire.

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