Dan Whitten, a spokesman for the trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance, did not respond specifically to Hughes’ data when approached for comment, but he did offer a general statement on the US natural gas sector.
“Our companies make investments in these wells because the people with expertise in actual production rates have studied this and know that while wells do decline, they are able to continue to produce robust volumes of natural gas for decades,” he said, “which is why most credible scientists who have looked at this see very strong production of this clean, American resource now and well into the future.”
The Independent Petroleum Association of America did not respond to a request for comment on the specifics of Hughes’ research or on the long-term viability of shale oil production in the US.
“David Hughes’s data is not disputed,” Jigar Shah, a solar energy entrepreneur and frequent commentator on US energy investment and production, told VICE News. “What it does is raise the question of what role governments are playing in places like North Dakota. At some point the dream ends.”
Shah pointed to the massive strain that the fossil fuel industry imposes on public infrastructure like roads and utility networks. He thinks that once the energy boom is over and industry giants have raked in their profits and withdrawn, states and taxpayers will be left to sort out their crumbling highways and decaying water systems on their own.
“I can certainly understand corporate interests,” Hughes remarked. “They do what they’re doing because they’re concerned about their quarterly returns. But they are not concerned about the long-term sustainability of energy production for America.”
“For me,” he added, “the long-term policy is that shale is a short-term bonanza.”
Follow Robert S. Eshelman on Twitter: @RobertSEshelman