EU Warms To Shale Gas In The Wake Of Crimea Crisis
Energy independence and the production of shale gas should top Europe’s political agenda, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, calling the Crimea crisis a “wake-up call” for states reliant on Russian gas. EU leaders are expected to ask US President Barack Obama today (26 March) to export more of the shale gas his country produces to Europe.
Escalating East-West tensions over Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine have endangered the energy security of some European states, including Germany, which are heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies.
“Some countries are almost 100% reliant on Russian gas, so I think it is something of a wake-up call,” Cameron told reporters yesterday (25 March) on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit.
Leaders agreed, during a hastily-convened meeting of the G7 major industrialised nations on Monday, to work together to reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas.
On Tuesday, Cameron pointed to reserves of shale gas, which can be extracted by a process known as fracking, in south-eastern Europe, Poland and England as a means of boosting energy independence for the whole region.
“I think it’s a good opportunity,” he said. “Energy independence, using all these different sources of energy, should be a tier one political issue from now on, rather than tier five.”
In Britain, fracking has been held up by public protests over the environmental impact of the technique, which involves blasting underground rock with high pressure liquid to release trapped gas. It has been banned outright in France and Bulgaria.
Although Britain only buys a small amount of gas from Moscow, Russia provides around one third of the EU’s oil and gas and some 40% of the gas is shipped through Ukraine.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticised Cameron, calling his comments a cynical attempt to exploit the Ukraine crisis. Citing industry estimates, they said fracking would take at least a decade to reach a useful scale, and that even at that point it was likely to displace other gas sources rather than Russian imports.
Message to Obama
European Union leaders last week agreed to accelerate their quest for more secure energy supplies by looking to import gas from the United States and pooling their purchasing power to empower the bloc in negotiations with Moscow [more].
EU leaders are in fact expected to press Obama to help reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy by exporting US natural gas, as the president pays today his first visit to Brussels since he first took office, in 2009.