There seems to be a growing consensus about Shale Gas in Europe. Following the ban of the fracking process in France and the suspension of exploratory drilling in England after increased seismic activity, Brussels is beginning to react. Increasing awareness of the problems that seem to be caused by fracking; water pollution and contamination, seismic instability, methane leakage and excessive use of ground water, is resulting in the development of political resistance to the fledgling fuel.
Jo Leinen, described by the Guardian as “one of the most influential members of the European Parliament, wants a new “energy quality directive” within Europe that would mean that fuels, such as Shale Gas, which are deemed to adversely impact upon the environment would be regulated heavily. Leinen is the chair of the EU committee on the environment, public health and food safety and as such has the power to introduce proposals for such regulation. He feels that there would likely be support for legislative intervention because a number of MEPs are becoming increasingly worried about shale gas. He stated that “We need to be looking much more carefully at shale gas, and at the consequences of pursuing it”. Regulation could take the form of limits or financial penalties on the use or extraction of shale gas.
The International Energy Agency recently released a report on shale gas which came to the conclusion that it was not a “panacea” for the worlds changing energy needs. Shale gas if used as the worlds main energy source would result in climate change going past the 2C mark regarded as the limit of safety. Beyond this point climate change is considered to become both catastrophic and irreversible.
However, any attempts to introduce legislative limitations on shale gas can expect to meet fierce resistance from the gas industry. Shale gas has been pushed hard as a ‘green’ energy source, particularly as it is cheaper to produce than most renewable energy sources. However, the carbon footprint of shale gas production has been repeatedly questioned as the figures released by the gas industry do not take into account the problem of methane leakage. Methane is considered to be the worst greenhouse gas because it is twenty times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Some have estimated that 4-8% of the methane produced by shale gas production enters into the atmosphere through leaking and venting.
Shale gas can be extremely damaging to the environment and to the renewable energy sector. Action must be taken.