Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Opinion

Fracking lobby calls the tune on commission shale-gas panel

  • Water pollution is one of the feared side-effects of fracking (Photo: Bijoy Mohan)

2015 is a big year for climate in Europe: the UN talks in Paris, this December; the implementation of the EU’s 2030 climate targets; mapping out the Energy Union.

Judging by the European Commission’s public statements, one would think the EU was firmly on its way to transforming our energy system towards efficient and renewable energy.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But in reality, its recently-established advisory group for the evaluation of shale gas development is opening the back door to this harmful and polluting technology across Europe, despite massive public opposition.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking involves the extraction of shale-gas from the ground using a pressurized liquid made of water, sand, and chemicals. It has disastrous consequences for public health and the environment - such as water contamination and air pollution - and can even trigger earthquakes. Scientists have said fracking is more damaging to the climate than coal-burning.

A 2013 European barometer survey found that 74 percent of Europeans would be concerned if a shale gas project came to their area, while only 9 percent of Europeans think that unconventional fossil fuel production should be prioritised, likely to do with the inherently destructive extraction technique called high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.

Yet the commission has put in place a new industry-dominated advisory group called the European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction. It’s tasked with assessing on-going projects across Europe, as well as the appropriateness of new technologies. The aim is to not just to assess them but to produce a “prioritisation of the most attractive” technologies. In short, to explore how fracking can be rolled out across Europe.

What makes this even more worrying is that the majority of non-European Commission members of the network either work directly for the fracking industry (40 percent) or have financial links with industry (33 percent), including academics and research institutions who have worked closely with industry on pro-facking studies.

Fewer than 10 percent of the members represent civil society, despite the commission’s aim to have a “fair and balanced exchange of ideas”.

It has also been revealed that many members, including Shell, Cuadrilla, Total, ExxonMobil and GDF Suez, successfully lobbied against stronger fracturing regulations and safety measures at the EU level, either directly or via their lobby groups (many of whom are also members).

In addition, the chairs of the working groups are all proponents of fracking, including the UK’s leading shale gas exploration company, Cudarilla.

The Polish chair, Grzegorz Pieńkowski, a member of the Polish Geological Institute, said in a recent interview with a gas industry journal that regulators “should not overdo it with these [environmental] concerns and impose new burdens that unnecessarily increase costs” and wants the group “to demonstrate the absence of environmental risks greater than those that appear in the case of conventional hydrocarbon exploitation.”

In short, the European Commission is putting the assessment of a highly damaging and dirty technology in the hands of a group where the majority of members not only have a clear financial stake (in the expansion of fracking and in particularly technology patents), but have lobbied against public interest regulations.

Such a blatant conflict of interest doesn’t just jeopardise public safety and the environment, it also lays bare the European Commission’s cosy relationship with the fracking industry, creating what amounts to a publicly-funded lobby vehicle for the shale gas industry.

Unfortunately the problem of industry domination within the commission’s advisory system is in no way limited to this network.

Last month revealed how the coal industry had equally succeeded in weakening regulations by capturing the relevant advisory group in the commission.

And a recent investigation by the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has shown widespread systemic industry bias, leading her to make far-reaching recommendations for reform, which the commission must respond to by 30 April.

If 2015 is really going to be the year that sets in motion an energy system transformation, as all the hyperbole from the commission suggests, then it needs to end the privileged access enjoyed by the dirty energy industry, beginning by scrapping this network.

Pascoe Sabido is a Researcher and Campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

EU should ensure sustainable Cohesion Policy

As the EU Council kicks off negotiations over the post-2020 budget, ministers have have an opportunity to create a framework that will unlock innovative financing and scale up the citizen-led clean energy transformation

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  2. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  3. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  4. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  5. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  6. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  7. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  8. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights