Russia currently supplies roughly 33% of the EU’s oil imports and almost 40% of its natural gas. This dependence on a single supplier can be a powerful foreign policy tool for the Kremlin, as recent events in Ukraine have made clear. Later this week, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom is widely expected to push through a price hike for Ukraine, putting increased pressure on Kiev in the current stand-off over Crimea. Yet Europe’s addiction to Russian energy is arguably a strong factor making EU leaders reluctant to consider biting sanctions.

But could fracking be the solution to Europe’s energy woes? Simply put, ‘fracking’ is a technique for extracting natural gas whereby a highly-pressurised cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is injected into the earth to fracture the rocks where natural gas is trapped. Hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) is already a relatively common method of extracting natural gas in the United States, where proponents argue it has heralded an “energy revolution”. However, getting European countries to agree on fracking has proven to be difficult due to the environmental concerns involved (and several EU Member States have implemented either total bans or moratoriums on fracking). Nevertheless, speaking earlier this week in the Netherlands, British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that once the wells are “up and running” in the UK, opposition to shale gas as an alternative source of energy will fade. So, what do YOU think the future of shale gas should look like in the EU?

Unconventional natural gas resources (shale gas) can be found in the United Kingdom, northern Germany and France, the Benelux countries, the Baltic region, and across Eastern Europe. In roughly half of these countries, permits for the extraction of shale gas have already been issued, including in the UK. Although ‘fracking’ could potentially secure Europe’s energy needs in the near future and reduce energy dependency on Russia (in the US, for example, unconventional gas currently accounts for around 20% of all energy consumed), critics argue that the technique will have a negative impact on the environment, including contaminating groundwater with chemical waste and potentially increasing the risk of earthquakes.

During the Citizen’s Dialogue in Poland, we received a comment from Maria, who felt very strongly that fracking should be banned in the EU:

Shale gas exploration and exploitation is ecocide! You will be remembered as the ones who destroyed the future of an unknown number of generations to come! Ban fracking now, if you want to avoid the EU being shaken down from its foundations because of this crazy project!

We put this comment to British MEP James Nicholson, who sits with the  Conservatives in the European Parliament. The  Conservatives generally take the stance that shale gas has the potential “to secure our energy supply, to reduce household bills, and to drive economic growth”, and that the EU can learn from the technologies and techniques that have already been tried and tested in the US. Coming from an area with large shale gas reserves, what does he think about fracking as a new source of energy?

We then put the same comment to Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who sits with the  Greens. Perhaps unsurprisingly (given that her party calls for a total ban on fracking) she was opposed:

aukenAbsolutely! I find shale gas the most short-sighted way of trying to solve the problem. You are creating many more problems than you are solving. It might not even help against climate change, and it is damaging to nature, it causes pollution, and I find it hopeless to choose this strategy. We have the resources, money and research skills to put into a sustainable energy supply, and that is the only way forward. So, yes, it should be banned in the EU.

What stance do the other parties take on fracking? For the  Centre-Right, energy independence from Russia seems to be a top priority. As shale gas is currently the easiest way to achieve this, fracking should be allowed “as long as the highest environmental and safety standards are met”. They also highlight that Member States should remain free to adopt their own energy mix solutions.

MEPs with the Eurosceptics believe that we should start exploiting shale gas as soon as possible, as it could reduce energy prices by up to 30%, create more jobs, and provide for more energy security. The [gue], however, calls shale gas a ‘false solution’ and asks for binding targets on green renewable technologies instead. The  Liberal Democrats are also more careful about giving their green light to shale gas, calling for further investment in alternative technologies that could provide for all our energy needs in the long run, rather than investing in short-term solutions.

Which party do YOU agree with? Support the party that you think has the best policies by voting for them in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! Should our first concern be to secure energy independence for Europe? Or should we instead invest more resources in developing new and sustainable technologies? Let us know what you think and post your comments, thoughts and questions in the section below, and we will take them to policy makers for their reaction!

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – House.Keepah

54 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Xavier Schoumaker

    Fracking IS NOT a solution. The solution is to move on from fossil fuels and ACT on it fast. Fracking will pollute all the layers of the earth’s crust and turn the last water sources we have into toxic waste. I cannot imagine to begin seeing the consequences of such narrow-mindedness. Obviously companies like Solvay do not look that far.
    Fracking is complete stupidity with no foresight.
    Just like combusting fuel in cities in which millions of people breathe.
    This is not about Russia (Putin), it is about your (kid’s) future.

    • avatar

      The future is here. And Europeans are looking for coal and firewood because they have no gas.
      Are you happy?

  2. avatar
    Richard Osborne

    Norway has enough gas to supply the entirety of Europe, I wonder why no one seems to mention that.

  3. avatar
    Giorgos Andronikou

    when you talk about ”energy independence of Europe” you mean to change the provider of gas?? To ask for our ”independence” beyond Atlantic Ocean? Then we have to use another word and not the word ‘independence’! For sure to develop our exciting renewable energy sources, plus make more researches for that and to seize our reservoirs for the good of ALL Europeans and not some ”europeans”.

  4. avatar
    Trond Johannessen

    If we want to accelerate the time to the end of the human race, just get those methane gas deposits spilling faster into the atmosphere. The dinosaurs died, and I am sure we’re on a faster and smarter track to extinction.

  5. avatar
    Stavros Pagonidis

    Wind? Sea waves? Sun? Hell no, those are infinite. Let’s dig holes everywhere to get us another 100 years of CO2 emmissions.

  6. avatar
    Borislav Valkov

    I agree that if we want an energy revolution then we should look for bio energy suplies or green technologie ones. Fracking will boost our economy but what will be the cost for the nature? Sometimes the best answer is totally different question to be answered.

  7. avatar
    Henrique Calqueiro

    There should be an investment on transporting solar energy from Portugal and Spain through the Pyrenees to the rest of Europe. That could solve some problems, at least during summer

  8. avatar
    Helder Oliveira

    Put Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece producing green energy to “feed” Europe. Maybe that won’t interest some other countries because it would lead to an economic revolution and game changes

  9. avatar

    Wind/solar/thermal/ etc are N times more expensive to produce and maintain production to a constant level (LOL, it takes more energy to produce less) and just after several years of usage they might become cost efficient, not proved yet, and N times more unreliable than conventional (coal, oil, gas) /nuclear.

    • avatar

      I understand the fact that Wind energy and other alternatives are more expensive compared to the conventional energy recourses (like you state in your argument). However, you’re only concerning the direct costs and benefits of both of the manners: considering fracking and (gas-winning in general) causes way more negative side effects (earthquakes, water pollution, and overal: delivering a non-durable sollution) compared to wind energy, solar energy, hydro energy, you could ask yourself if fracking is a desirable sollution. Broken ecosystems, dying fish populations and postponing the process of actual solutions for energy problematics are all aspects that are maybe hard to articulate in terms of money, but are certainly costly enough to make it worth preventing them from happening. Do you want energy prices to be cheap for the next decades or do you want the entire system to be sustainable for the next centuries, with maybe a higher price in the short term?

  10. avatar
    Elefantul Eugen

    Fracking is bad for the nature, so, why do not use the electricity instead, wich is producted by wind?

    • avatar

      Because electricity cannot be stored. Is in surplus when you don’t need it and in demand when you need it.

  11. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    We should collaborate and benefit from existing supply sources which are abuntant cheap and serve commercial cooperation.And use the funds for supplementing poor and unemployed european citizens.E.U. bureaucracy needs downsizing,efficiency and STRICT public control.

  12. avatar

    But, the main reason that oposses to alternative sources of energy is the mega system that govern the conventional one (fossil) prospect/production/distribution and of course the control of it. It’s way too much at stake.

  13. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    Have you ever heard of renewable energy? That would help us more in the long run than fracking. Sun, air, geothermal energy, a percentage of biofuels and for the future one of the most reliable renewable fuels: hydrogen.

  14. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    I love some people – close down nuclear power stations in Germany now, don’t EVEN think about fracking, but sanction Russia and DON’T let me freeze in the middle of January. There are five year olds out there with a greater sense of perspective about a causal link and contradiction.

    A word about renewables – we do not have the capacity to replace all our coal/oil/gas energy needs with solar and wind, and we need a source that is more reliable when sunlight and/or wind are scarce. We could probably go up to 20%, maybe 30% renewables, but the other 70-80% has to come from some source, and it will either produce greenhouse gases (coal/oil/gas) or radioactive waste (nuclear fission). There has been a breakthrough in nuclear fusion last year and the fusion reactor being built in the south of france may demonstrate the viability of this source, which doesn’t produce radioactive waste or the potential for nuclear meltdown. But it’s not going to be built until 2027 which means fusion won’t be massively available until at least the 2030s or possibly later. Until then, stop talking about solar and wind as the solution to completely replace oil, gas and coal. It just exposes you as someone who doesn’t know what the hell he or she is talking about.

  15. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    @George Danieldsg “We should collaborate and benefit from existing supply sources which are abuntant cheap and serve commercial cooperation.” Have you checked energy prices lately? This is an example of people whose opinion and reality were seemingly in a marriage at one point and have long ago gotten a divorce.

  16. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Why the two extremes? Fracking or ever dependent to Russian oligarchs with all that brings.. Invest in green energy for household consumption.. The more independent we are from certain countries the sooner and better we could form our indepedent foreign policy…

    • avatar

      Wishful thinking. Usually, the cheaper gas is absorbed by industry and the imported expensive one is paid by population. Unfortunately the governments will always want their share from any energy source regardless. In fewer words, they (government) want you hooked to national pipes/cables/grids even if you, a private individual, own squared miles of wind turbines/solar panels. Totally independence is just outrageous expensive (possible though) or as a law abaiding citizen you have to play by the rules and pay government their share.

  17. avatar
    Daniel Iulian Mihai

    If we know FOR SURE that fracking is not bad for anybody, then let’s go ahead already!
    But if fracking would make Europe independent from Russia but poisoned and unhealthy for us and our kids, then I want to be dependent for the rest of my life. :)

  18. avatar
    Emilios Vitalis

    I really do hope this is a rhetorical question..

    I thought it was a “no brainer” at this evolutionary stage of humanity that all our efforts should be targeted to renewable energy resources.

  19. avatar
    Giuseppe Di Paola

    Russia won’t use its gas reserves as a political tool. If it is true that 40% of Gas in Europe is provided by Russia, it is also true that Russia gains a lot from it and I do not think they want to lose their huge european revenues

    • avatar

      Absolutely true. Now, it depends how you see Russia, as a trusted business partner or a potential enemy.

  20. avatar
    Боян Максимов

    NO, the first and right question,is “is it safety” We don’t pay you, to be Chevron’s Lobby dear EU social media bureaucrats / sorry for my english/

  21. avatar
    Anonimko Mnogosme

    And YES , Fracking IS the reason for all this sh*t , done in Ukraine, done by the US founded neo-nazis, and the logo of CHEVRON was behind the back of Victoria Newland, on her speech about the future of Ukraine. WAKE UP, Europe, the US are driving all of us in a resource fracking cold war, and they have chose Europe to be the battlefield. REJECT the TTIP!

  22. avatar

    I would prefer a nuclear power programme that would ensure our energy security along side green energy that works . (Not wind farms)

  23. avatar
    Cris Hova

    Do you guys that are against fracking actually have some knowledge about it from outside the internet? I mean here ( on the net) we also find a lot of articles about homeopathy and we all know ( I hope so) that it`s all just about placebo.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Cris Hova:

      You are wrong about homeopathy as well.

      I have a friend who has a baby of just over 18 months now. When she was three months she developed a bad case of eczema in many parts of her body. My friend took the little girl to every doctor you can imagine as it used to bleed and was terribly distressing They tried every remedy known to the medical profession. Even being taken into a private children’s ward in central London, all to no effect and great expense.

      After she had given up completely a woman she met on a coffee morning told her of a very good homeopath not far from where she lived and said the results from this women were remarkable. And so my friend tried it. Low and behold, she went to this homeopathyst with her then, 9 month old, three times in all, one month apart, and the baby healed like a miracle. The eczema has so far not returned.

      I could give you numerous true stories like this, but it would take too long and no doubt you would be a sceptic. However, it is the medical union that is profoundly against this form of healing as they don’t get any money from it. And it threatens the pharmacology giants. The ones that ram all kinds of killing chemicals down our throats and have our hospitals full of patients who have violent and ruthless bad reactions to their quack sales. It is not in their interests to have cheap, fast unobtrusive medication on the market when they cannot cut a slice of the action for themselves. Their lobby has brought in legislation by paying nicely for the creeps who do their bidding.

      Grow up and understand the money men of this planet before adopting their propaganda. They will shove you with anything they can convince you will put you right and do away with any form of competition on any pretense. They are a very powerful but unscrupulous lobby.

    • avatar

      @ Catherine:

      I’m glad that your friend’s baby is better.

      However, this is anecdotal evidence. Even numerous similar stories would not be enough unless there was a strict methodology in place, including clinical trials and double-blind testing. There have been numerous major studies into the effectiveness of homeopathy, and the evidence strongly suggests it is ineffective.

      I’m not doubting your friend’s baby got better – but how can you be 100% sure it wasn’t the placebo effect or that she wouldn’t have recovered anyway?

  24. avatar
    Daria Pîrvu

    Against the introduction of high-volume hydraulic fracturing without consulting the population in Romania, April the 6th is declared by the Romanian civil society “day of national struggle against hydraulic fracturing in Romania”.
    On 6th of April a protest against shale gas and fracking takes place in several cities in Romania (more than 60 towns in the country and Diaspora)
    How about a solidarity protest in the heart of Europe? Here, our voices are better heard!
    (Berlin, Bruxelles, Madrid, Milano, Mnchen, Paris, Toronto, Viena Solidarity with #Pungesti, #BartonMoss, #Balcombe,?urawlw and worldwide fracking areas.

  25. avatar

    Fracking is possible only where is gas trapped between rocks. Poland for instance ambitiously start prospecting a while ago. Well, the results were way under expectations therefore some of big guys in the industry just quit the area. European anti-fracking supporters are just overacting. The first condition to get poisoned by the “toxic chemicals” that are poured in the ground is to have at least a reasonable quantity of shale gas that worth the investment. Otherwise it’s just chit chat.

  26. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    We should forget fracking!

    We should focus on Thorium and tidal power ASAP.

  27. avatar
    Joseba Ortigosa

    In my opinion is not necesary to open one debate about fracking, all the people know that isn´t a viable the actual energetic model. The future maybe and in my opinion must to be more clean than the present. Regards.

  28. avatar

    Fracking will kill us and the nature
    I think USA should make laws protecting the nature and the peaople like EU not the way around

  29. avatar
    Eoin Ward

    Fracking is environmental suicide, those that say it’s safe are lying and in my opinion criminal. I would like to a WORLD BAN on fracking and ECOCIDE laws should to prosecute the ceo’s AND share holders of these company’s, but off course that will not happen in Europe or any where else in the world because corruption and complicity rule especially in the EU.

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