Abstract

There is an ongoing dialogue in society about the place of energy resources in sustainability. One aspect of that discussion focuses on resource sustainability, the ability of governments and industry to ensure continued supply of needed resources. A related topic centers on the economic benefits and costs of fossil fuel production. Concerns about negative impacts on environmental social sustainability drive other parts of this conversation, and often lead to opposition to fossil fuel production and use. This paper uses the example of shale gas to argue that concentration on single sustainability aspects is inappropriate. Rather, development and production of these resources needs to be considered in the context of sustainable development, which necessitates integrating environmental and development strategies so as to satisfy current and future human needs. Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) is proposed as a way to analyse the net contributions of a shale gas play to economic, environmental, social and resource sustainability. The latter topic is considered and variables that could be used in an ISA are proposed. Understanding, quantifying and communicating the nature and magnitude of the net contribution of shale gas to society will be a challenging, but essential, task in the process of responding to opposition in an open and constructive manner, one which ISAs can support.

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