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In September 2010, Chatham House published a report by this author entitled The ‘Shale Gas Revolution’: Hype and Reality. The report, after describing the ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States, then considered two key questions: could the revolution continue there and could it be replicated elsewhere? The answers to both questions were ambivalent. The resulting uncertainty was beginning to inhibit investment in conventional and unconventional gas. Thus the report argued that in five to ten years’ time, given that gas demand would continue to grow, there could be gas shortages because of the long lead times on projects to develop supplies. At the same time, this uncertainty threatened to inhibit investment in renewable energy on the grounds that the prospect of large volumes of cheap gas might appear to provide a cheaper route to a lower carbon economy than high-cost renewables.
Since the report was published, an extremely sharp division has developed between the proponents and opponents of shale gas. As battle lines were being drawn, many analysts, including this author, found themselves in a ‘no man’s land’ between the warring parties, simply uncertain as to the realistic prospects for shale gas. A number of developments have reinforced the uncertainties emphasized in the original report. This briefing paper briefly summarizes the earlier report and provides an update on what has happened since 2010 and how this may have changed the overall picture.