Asking the Right Questions About the Future of Shale Gas

37 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2016 Last revised: 13 Dec 2016

See all articles by John C. Dernbach

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Date Written: January 21, 2016


This Article argues that the questions that have guided U.S. energy policy for decades — about how to assure cheap, plentiful, and secure energy with basic environmental and public health protection — are no longer the only relevant questions, and uses shale gas to make that point. Shale gas development is justified on the basis that it contributes to some reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, that it produces needed energy, and that it has economic, social, and security benefits. This Article explains that policy makers and others need to ask instead 1) whether the use of shale gas is consistent with the scale and pace of required greenhouse gas emissions, 2) how much energy we need, and 3) how the benefits of shale gas compare with the costs and benefits of alternatives, especially energy efficiency and conservation.

Keywords: sustainable, sustainability, sustainable development, shale, shale gas, climate change, Paris Agreement, hydrofracturing, greenhouse gas emissions

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K32, Q00, Q01, Q10, Q2, Q3, Q4

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C., Asking the Right Questions About the Future of Shale Gas (January 21, 2016). John Marshall Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 377, 2015, Widener Law Commonwealth Research Paper No. 15-28, Available at SSRN: or

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

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