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Thought We Were Running Out of Fossil Fuels?

New technology means Britain and the U.S. could tap undreamed reserves of gas and oil

by Nigel Lawson

Thirty years ago, I was Secretary of State for Energy in Margaret Thatcher’s government, and one way and another I have been a close observer of the energy scene ever since.

In all that time, I have never known a technological revolution as momentous as the breakthrough that has now made it economic to extract gas from shale.

Geologists have long known that shale — a finely grained rock created from compressed mud, which sits in layers — contains, trapped in it, massive amounts of gas, and in some cases, oil.

But getting it out of the ground is a tricky business. Below the North Sea, natural gas forms in sandstone and when a drill reaches the gas, it flows out.

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