Europe’s Cold War Over Shale

The environmental group Food & Water Europe has accused the Polish author of a European Parliament report on shale gas extraction of resorting to “Cold War” rhetoric against Russia to support the industry’s development. In a statement released on Monday, Food & Water Europe blasted the draft report by MEP Bogusław Sonik (European People’s Party) on the environmental impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction activities. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Europe, also accuses the report’s author of anti-Russian bias.—EurActiv, 18 April 2012

The biggest risk for Russia is not the US shale gas but the potential of the development of similar reserves in neighbouring Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Ukraine. Natural gas is one of the key economic engines of Russia. Could the boom in shale gas challenge the leadership of Russia in gas? Until now, Moscow and Gazprom have seemingly been nonchalant about the threat. But as the impact of the boom in US natural gas production becomes clear, depressing prices to levels not seen in 10 years and increasing the prospect of the country becoming an exporter, the Kremlin is beginning to pay attention.—Javier Blas, Financial Times, 19 April 2012 [Registration Required]

The dynamic rise of shale gas has raised alarm bells in the highest reaches of the Kremlin. Why? Because Gazprom’s European customers, tired of being ripped off by Gazprom, are avidly exploring the possibilities of undertaking fracking to develop their own sources of the “blue gold,” and nowhere is interest higher than in the Russian Federation’s neighbors Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and China. Gazprom’s exports to Europe are already falling because of increased competition. Moscow’s National Research University Higher School of Economics Center for evaluation of commodity assets director Valery Kryukov noted that while Gazprom previously supplied 37 percent of Europe’s natural gas needs, that had slipped to 25 percent and concluded, “Russia risks losing its main source of income - the export of natural gas.”—John Daly,Oil Price, 13 April 2012

American sources have told British counterparts of hopes that their nation’s energy security headaches could be transformed by fracking shale formations to release American oil and gas. If all goes well, America could find itself much less dependent on the Middle East and troublesome allies in the Arab world, is the message from Washington. The nightmare scenario for some British government insiders is the reverse. Namely, Britain discovers promising reserves, but then is hobbled by irrational European environmental rules and as a result finds itself stuck in the only rich-world economic block that is still dependent on the Middle East for energy. –Bagehot, The Economist, 17 April 2012

The British government will allow shale-gas exploration to resume in northern England. This could be the harbinger of some very good news for consumers in the U.K. and throughout Europe. Britain and Europe could be on the brink of a shale revolution—or at least an end to chronic undersupply—if its governments don’t stand in the way. On that point, the U.K. isn’t the only good-news story. Poland, which is keen to throw off the yoke of dependence on Russian fuel, continues to press forward with shale-gas exploration. Efforts from Greens in the European Parliament to ban or restrict fracking throughout the European Union have gone nowhere.—Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 19 April 2012

The battle over the development of France’s unconventional hydrocarbon resources is set to reignite with the publication of a report in favour of research activities in hydraulic fracturing to investigate shale oil and gas resource potential. The release of the report, eight months after France implemented a ban on the extraction of hydrocarbon resources by hydraulic fracturing, comes at a time when the energy mix and energy pricing is playing a heighted role in the French Presidential elections. Speaking to RTL, the Socialist Candidate for President indicated a policy shift from the party’s previous unequivocal opposition to shale oil and shale gas development. Francois Hollande commented: “You should never rule out anything, especially if research shows that one can obtain this gas without harming nature.”—Natural Gas Europe, 1 April 2012
The case of shale gas development cannot be considered closed in Bulgaria, according to Energy and Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev. In a Friday interview for the morning broadcast of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Dobrev announced that a parliamentary committee would be set up this week to review the shale gas moratorium. The Energy Minister explained that the ban on hydraulic fracturing could be revoked if the ad hoc committee declared the technology harmless. “If it turns out that shale gas is not harmful to the environment and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) comes out positive, then we should really take advantage of it,” Dobrev stated.—Sofia News, Agency 2 April 2012

A UK study into hydraulic fracturing offers New Zealand “some reassurance” the process causes only very small, normal-range earthquakes, a GNS scientist says. Head of Petroleum Geoscience at GNS Science, Rosemary Quinn, told TV ONE’s Breakfast the study conducted on the use of fracking in the English town of Blackpool last year found it caused only “very small earthquakes” up to 2.3 magnitude. “We get about 150,000 earthquakes in New Zealand every year that are magnitude 2.3 and above, so that’s about 50 a day and most people just don’t feel them. That level of seismicity in New Zealand is normal.”—TV New Zealand, 18 April 2012

The Independent newspaper wants all shale gas exploration halted, to save the planet. “A new age of shale gas holds the risk that the decarbonisation of the UK energy system, essential if we are to meet our demanding climate change targets, will be pushed back and back,” the paper declares in an editorial. “Mass use of shale gas would make these targets unattainable.” But two recent economic studies prove the opposite. The UK and Europe could meet their own carbon dioxide reduction targets by replacing dirty coal with cleaner gas and nuclear energy capacity.—Andrew Orlowski, The Register, 19 April 2012.
 
 
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23.04.2012
 
 
 

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