Friday

26th Apr 2019

MEPs' report casts doubt on EU shale revolution

  • Anti-shale demonstration in France, which put drilling on hold earlier this week (Photo: marcovdz)

MEPs on the European Parliament's environment committee have adopted a report highlighting the dangers of shale gas.

The vote on Wednesday (19 September) - by a whopping 63 against one with one abstention - sets the scene for a non-binding resolution on the issue in plenary in October or November.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The report calls for a review of EU and national-level environmental laws related to shale exploitation and for "constant monitoring" of shale extraction activity.

It also calls for industry to pay for associated pollution and for disclosure of chemicals used in fracking - a technique for extracting gas from rock by blasting it with hydraulic fluid to create cracks and fissures.

"Before countries rush ahead with shale gas, we need to ensure that we have all the information about the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and also on the economic viability," British centre-left MEP Linda McAvan said after the vote.

"We want to make sure that any shale gas company which is looking to operate in the EU knows that they will have to meet the highest environmental standards," she added.

Polish centre-right MEP Boguslaw Sonik noted: "The main message of the report is that having a precautionary environmental approach, shale gas and shale oil are given an opportunity to prove their commercial profitability."

The environment committee paper comes after a more shale-friendly report by the industry and energy committee on Tuesday.

The industry committee text - which got through by 32 votes against 23 - says the EU should stay out of national energy policies and that shale will reduce energy dependency on third countries and lower C02 emissions.

The conflicting ideas come in the context of heavy lobbying on shale in Brussels.

The big energy companies lining up to take part in Europe's "shale revolution" - such as ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, OMV and Shell - note that EU countries are sitting on up to 14 trillion cubic metres of extractable shale, enough to meet their gas demand for almost 30 years without buying a drop from Russia.

With some of the biggest deposits in Poland and the Baltic states, Russia-wary EU governments also see shale as a way of undermining Moscow's political influence in the region.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski often tweets links to pro-shale reports, while Polish diplomats see the hand of Russian gas firm Gazprom behind anti-shale studies published around the world.

Meanwhile, environmental groups such as Greenpeace say fracking contaminates water and soil and that shale investment will gobble resources from renewable alternatives.

Austria, France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have begun drilling for shale.

But France in recent days became the latest EU country to put operations on hold pending environmental analysis. Bulgaria, Romania and the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia have also bowed to pro-green protests to hold off on drilling for now.

The US began experimenting with shale in the 1980s. It currently accounts for 23 percent of US natural gas production but is predicted by the US government to account for 49 percent by 2035 and to lead to lower gas and oil prices around the world.

The head of the Paris-based International Energy Association, Fatih Birol, told press at an event in May that shale: "will [fracture] the role of the energy super powers with major geopolitical implications."

Opinion

We need an honest debate on shale gas

The debate on shale gas is reaching hysterical proportions. It is high time to have a frank, open and honest debate that acknowledges both the merits and drawbacks of shale gas, writes Roderick Kefferpütz.

Shale gas tussle bubbling under EU surface

Heralded as an energy game-changer by supporters, perceived as environmentally pernicious by critics, shale gas is both controversial and increasingly on the European agenda.

Germany eyes rules for controversial gas extraction

Germany is pondering a bill setting out rules for a controversial shale gas extraction method - fracking - that has poisoned ground water in the US but also allowed the country to become energy-independent.

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us