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U.S. shale gas seen as economic weapon

HOUSTON, July 20 (UPI) -- Rising U.S. natural gas production from shale has weakened Russia's ability to wield an "energy weapon" over its European customers, a U.S. study says.

The study by the Baker Institute at Rice University, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, predicts Russia's natural gas market share in Western Europe will decline to as little as 13 percent by 2040, down from 27 percent in 2009.

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The study says timely development of U.S. shale gas resources will limit the need for the United States to import liquefied natural gas for at least two to three decades, thereby reducing energy-related stress on the U.S. trade deficit and economy, a Rice release said Wednesday.

"The geopolitical repercussions of expanding U.S. shale gas production are going to be enormous," said Amy Myers Jaffe, one of the authors of the study.

"By increasing alternative supplies to Europe in the form of liquefied natural gas displaced from the U.S. market, the petro-power of Russia, Venezuela and Iran is faltering on the back of plentiful American natural gas supply," she said.

The study predicts U.S. shale production will more than quadruple by 2040 from 2010, reaching more than 50 percent of total U.S. natural gas production by the 2030s.

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"The idea that shale gas is a flash-in-the-pan is simply incorrect," co-author Kenneth Medlock III said. "The geologic data on the shale resource is hard science and the innovations that have occurred in the field to make this resource accessible are nothing short of game-changing."

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