European Parliament’s backing of fracking outrages critics

Fracking is a divisive issue, on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been banned outright in several countries. [Shutterstock]

The European Parliament has welcomed more imports of fracked gas from the US, leading to criticism questioning the EU’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Although the EU’s gas demand is at a 20-year-low, the bloc’s falling production volume, as reported by the European Commission back in February, has led to fears of a gas shortage.

The Commission has been clear that more imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are vital, despite more power being generated by wind and solar power. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and is therefore an important cog in the transition to a low carbon economy, explained Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.

The executive’s main objective is more gas imports from third countries, but also building cross-border gas storage using the Connecting Europe Facility and structural funds. According to analysis by the European Policy Centre, the EU’s existing LNG terminals can only cope with 195 million cubic metres per year, which is between 40% and 50% of the EU’s annual demand.

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Critics are not convinced by these arguments. The fact that the European Parliament adopted the EU’s LNG strategy and gas storage by a majority just a few days before the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate was not well received. The production, delivery and use of LNG causes methane leakage, which is more damaging to the environment than CO2.

The EU will not be able to fulfill its Paris obligations, if it pushes other fossil fuels and expands the existing gas infrastructure, warned Andy Gheorghiu of NGO Food & Water Europe.

Die Linke’s European Parliament energy spokesperson Cornelia Ernst insisted that the EU’s strategy is going in “completely the wrong direction”.

“Today’s demand for gas in the EU is 23% of its peak in 2010, as a result of energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energies. If it now ups its investment in LNG, then the EU will be creating infrastructure it doesn’t really need and which all taxpayers are going to have to pay for,” she added.

The Parliament’s decision also welcomed more fracked gas from the United States. The related report by the energy committee said that a single energy market with fully integrated LNG and gas storage is essential to a crisis-proof Energy Union.

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“Crisis-proof” ultimately means more independence from Russia. The majority of the EU’s gas supply is in LNG form and is pumped around the continent by pipelines originating in a few third-party countries. As the existing network means that some member states can only get their gas from the Baltic region, south-east Europe and Russia, there is an uncertainty that the Commission wishes to address through diversified gas imports and more flexibility of supply.

Price plays its part. In the fracking hot beds of the US and Australia there are a lot of terminals, a situation that has caused the price of gas imports to tumble.

That is why two-thirds of US LNG is obtained through fracking. “While several member states have introduced moratoriums or bans on fracking, it is cynical to then push for more imports of fracked gas,” said Gheorghiu.

In the EU, there are full bans in place in Bulgaria and France. The UK has recently devolved authorisation for granting licences in Scotland to Holyrood, which has since decided to cease the practice and impose a moratorium.

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