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Drill, baby, drill.

Last year, the “Potential Gas Committee,” a group of specialists linked to the Colorado School of Mines, reported the biggest increase in U.S. natural-gas reserves in its 44-year history, from 1,532 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in 2006 to 2,074 TCF in 2008.

The Marcellus shale field alone, in New York and Pennsylvania, has been estimated to be worth as much as US$2-trillion. The American Petroleum Institute has calculated that it could support 280,000 jobs. In Quebec, a report this week suggested that the industry could create almost 5,000 jobs a year for the next 10 years.

So much for running out of hydrocarbons.

As for the geopolitical implications, shale gas, which is also present in large volumes in Europe, promises to reduce the significance of both Russian and Iranian gas, along with those suppliers’ potential for causing trouble. It also augurs a huge boost to gas-fired electricity, and further undermines the economics of nuclear, wind and solar power. According to Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University, “It will prevent the rise of any new cartels. It will alter geopolitics. And it will slow the transition to renewable energy.”

Last month, energy consultant and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin declared that shale gas was the most important development in the energy industry so far this century.