Yesterday's successful launch of the Center For Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) in Pittsburgh is a game changing event for shale gas development. Simply put, as is the case with forestry products now, gas consumers will increasingly demand that the gas they buy be certified as sustainably produced.
Ultimately, it will matter not that individual gas producers like or dislike CSSD. What will be decisive is that consumers of gas from Washington DC to Maine and from New York to Chicago will demand that their gas is certified as sustainably managed. For example, I suspect that Mayor Bloomberg and many other political, business, and regulatory leaders are already exploring when and how they will get CSSD certified gas.
Again, in forest products, timber certified as sustainably grown is almost an imperative for success in the US marketplace. Crucially, compared to the attention paid to forest management issues, the public attention paid to shale gas dwarfs forest stewardship.
Indeed, the public concern about shale gas development is so intense that electricity generators and competitive retail electricity suppliers will jump or be pushed to use increasingly CSSD certified gas in the making of electricity. And power production is a vital market for gas producers.
Consumer preferences and this powerful market demand means that smart gas producers will join Consol, Equitable, Shell, and Consol in improving their gas production operations so that they can earn CSSD certification. Whether gas producers like CSSD or not, CSSD just changed fundamentally their business world by empowering consumers to decide what gas they will buy and what gas they will not.