My summer vacation/holiday (as compared to what?), was in a wifi free zone, for the past two weeks my main media has been the International Herald Tribune and the embarrassingly awful CNN International.
It did give me pause for thought among other things. Has getting out of the feedback loop over energy changed my mind on shale?
No. In fact, the more I think about it (confirmed by some tantalizing emails on my return), the more convinced I am that the next few months will be even more exciting than this year. I've been looking at shale for two years now, which gives me some realistic perspective on how the US experience is going to be replicated globally. I'll be sharing that here, in some conferences coming up this month and next (details soon), Petroleum Economist in September and BBC Radio 4 next week.
Not a summer vacation, but a conference in Washington last week underlined how far behind the UK and non Polish Europe are on shale. The US State Department organised a two day conference on the Global Shale Gas Initiative.
The worlds' press yawned on this one, but in Williamsport Pennsylvania, where the delegates took a road trip, they were happy to welcome the world to their door.
The U.S. State Department sponsored the visit, which followed the two-day Global Shale Gas Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C.
During a press briefing Tuesday, David Goldwyn, coordinator for the State Department's office on International Energy Affairs, said the development of natural gas resources from shale is "a terrific boon" for the United States and global energy security. Other countries want to develop their own shale gas deposits, but lack the experience needed to do it safely and efficiently, Goldwyn said.
The conference was held so "we could teach them what they need to know," he said.
Representatives from Armenia, Bulgaria, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lithuania, Morrocco, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Ukraine and the U.S. arrived in Williamsport by bus from Washington.
The inference I guess is that UK energy experts like Charles Hendry, Alistair Buchanan and David MacKay don't need any lessons, they prefer to simply dismiss shale as irrelevant to the UK from this side of the Delaware Water Gap.
Back to the open-minded regulators from throughout the world in PA. Firstly, are there any surprises in the delegate country list? Not to us or our readers. The UK, obsessed with lights out caused by Russia, should ask themselves two questions: Why weren't they on the list, and why was Morocco? The story for European energy security, lies under our feet of course, although in the UK we seem too pig headed to realise it. But (yet another) key UK energy policy error is looking east, when the real news is coming from North Africa.
Meanwhile, back on the bus, surely all these regulators came up with all kinds of Gasland style horror stories to take home to their countries not under my back yard lobbies?
Jennifer Marot, manager of frontier geology for Petroleum Agency SA, the agency that regulates oil and gas exploration in South Africa, said she and agency CEO Mthozami Xiphu want to see the impacts of shale development first hand.
"We're just beginning shale gas exploration in our country," Marot said. "We want to make sure we learn as much as we can because you've done it all before.
"(South Africa) is concerned about the issue," she said. "We're a semi-arid country, so water is a precious commodity."
Ah yes, water, the one thing that Gazprom and Ofgem obsess about, in their effort to sell Europe more Russian gas instead of shale. But does the fear live up to the reality?
The tour made its way along Route 220 in Picture Rocks to two water withdrawal sites, Beaver Lake Road in Penn Township where Chief maintains a compressor station and fresh water impoundments and then to a gas rig near Lairdsville.
While viewing the well site, Marot said she was "impressed by the size of the footprint" of the gas operations.
"It's quite small," she said.