Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link

Divisions among EU governments remain between those who want to suspend EU funds if rule of law is not respected, and those who want to narrow down conditionality.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us