SEI scholar secures grant for politics of shale gas project
SEI-based Senior Lecturer in Politics Francis McGowan has won a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant to fund his research into the politics of shale gas in Europe and North America.
The project, Reactions to Shale Gas Development in Europe and the US: Risk Perception and Political Contestation in Comparative Perspective, will be carried out over the next two years and the grant (£9,600) will fund fieldwork and research assistance.
Shale gas has become a topic of considerable interest and controversy in recent years.
Pioneered in the USA, production has risen from negligible levels in the early 2000s to nearly 30 per cent of US gas production in 2011, transforming US energy markets and raising the question whether the resource could have an equivalent effect in other regions.
However, while advocates have emphasised its potential to improve energy security, cut energy costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions (by displacing coal), opposition to the option has emerged, based on perceived environmental, safety and health problems.
In North America, local, state and national opponents have challenged further development with limited success. By contrast, in Europe such groups have emerged in advance of the development of shale gas and, in a number of countries, have been effective in politicising the issue: opposition and governing political parties have become involved and, in some cases, governments have reversed plans to license exploration and production.
Francis has been exploring the development of shale gas for the last two years, initially focusing on its implications for energy security and then assessing its significance as a case study in the relationship between regulation and innovation.
The new grant takes the research in a new direction, exploring the domestic politics of shale gas: what has been the reaction to the experience (or prospect) of shale gas development in different parts of North America and Europe.
In particular, the research aims to answer a set of specific questions about the politics of shale gas:
- What accounts for the diverse outcomes in the development of and response to shale gas?
- What has motivated the opponents of shale gas and what strategies have they adopted?
- How have political parties become involved in the “politicisation” of shale gas and what factors have determined the stances they have adopted?
- How has the energy industry sought to influence governments and address public concerns?
- How have institutional structures, political cultures and traditions of mobilisation shaped the politics of shale gas?
- How have protagonists at the local, national and transnational levels co-operated and coordinated with one another?
- What role has been played by the media in shaping the debate around shale gas?