Fracking has opened new territory to gas exploration, areas that were once thought to be too challenging to be economically viable. Indeed, compared to petroleum, domestic natural gas represents potential reductions in emissions, greater economic stability, and fewer security concerns. For these reasons, it has received political support from the Obama Administration.
At the same time, fracking has raised many concerns. First of all, is the threat it poses to local groundwater resources. Fracking is also a potential trigger for earthquakes and has been linked to seismic events in North America and elsewhere in the world. Finally, there is concern over the emissions generated by the fracking process itself. Recent studies have estimated that the carbon footprint of shale-gas extraction is as much as 20 percent higher than originally thought.
In the end, shale-gas extraction--like expanded nuclear power generation and "clean coal" -- may be a necessary, if unpleasant, step forward in a world without oil unless clean alternatives are more proactively developed.