Monday

9th Dec 2019

EU summit backs shale gas 'revolution'

  • Anti-shale-gas protesters in Brussels (Photo: Jan Slangen)

EU energy policy must shift towards diversifying supply, with natural shale gas likely to be part of the mix, EU leaders said at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday (22 May).

UK Prime Minister David Cameron offered robust support for European exploitation of shale gas, telling journalists: "No regulation must get in the way."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Europe has 75 percent as much shale gas as the US, yet the Americans are drilling 10,000 wells per year while we in Europe are drilling less than 100," he noted.

He added it is "no surprise that over the last decade Americans have increased their energy from shale from just 1 percent to 30 percent, and here in Europe we are now paying twice what the US pays for wholesale gas."

For his part, European Council President Herman van Rompuy said the summit was the "right moment for a strategic debate on European energy policy."

He noted that "Europe will soon be the only continent dependent on imported energy."

He also called for increased investment in energy infrastructure and efficiency in a bid to cut costs.

Energy prices in Europe are over twice the levels in the US.

The emphasis on competitiveness and prices is an indication that environmental and climate concerns are falling down the EU's list of priorities, however.

In advance of the summit, an EU official confirmed the energy talks would be "through the lens of prices rather than climate concerns."

But EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on Wednesday it was "a good day for EU climate policy" because leaders welcomed a European Commission green paper on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies.

The leaders also pledged to return to this issue in March 2014.

Member states each brought different energy priorities to the table.

The question of rising prices and security of supply is of particular concern to eastern European countries, which rely heavily on Russian energy giant Gazprom.

For its part, Germany turned against nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.

It is now investing in renewables, particularly wind turbines, instead.

In a nod to the shale gas boom in the United States, which has caused a fall of over 50 percent in energy prices since 2008 and a 0.5 percent bump in US GDP last year, Van Rompuy said "shale gas could be part of the energy mix in a number of [EU} countries."

An EU diplomatic source said the "migration of energy prospectors and jobs from Europe to the US is a real prospect."

The jobs drain comes in the context of the re-industrialisation of a number of American states as a result of oil and natural gas drilling.

Another EU official said the commission might soon be tasked with preparing "general guidance" and a "common framework for countries dealing with shale gas."

There is unlikely to be a co-ordinated shale gas gold rush in the EU as a whole, however.

John Lyman, energy director for the Atlantic Council, a think tank working on US-EU relations, told EUobserver that shale extraction "would get done in parts of Europe" only.

"The resources are there, but it is all about the politics," he added, referring to the clash between environmental and energy security lobbies in several countries.

The summit marked the first big discussion on energy policy since the agreement of the EU's energy package in 2009, which aimed at liberalising the sector by "unbundling" production and supply.

Meanwhile, over in Strasbourg, MEPs on Tuesday (21 May) backed a non-legislative report calling for a robust EU policy to promote renewable energy.

The report says the EU should consider a mandatory target for 2030 and create incentives for investment in the sector.

In a statement on Wednesday, Green group energy spokesperson Claude Turmes described the EU's focus on prices as "deluded and misguided."

He said that "the EU should be looking to reduce end-user costs and this implies taking more ambitious measures to ensure end-use efficiency, limiting energy wastage, which will bring down energy bills for consumers and industry alike."

He added: "Shale gas is not the silver bullet for Europe's energy policy but rather a dangerous Trojan Horse."

EU ditches plan to regulate on shale gas

The EU commission has backed away from regulating shale gas extraction, leaving national governments in charge on the controversial practice.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Agenda

UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK

EU leaders will try to agree on the 2050 emission-free target - but they will deeply disagree on EU spending over the next seven years. Meanwhile the UK will elect its new political leadership.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us