Shale gas extraction could help lower energy bills and reduce Europe's dependence on energy from other countries, but there are concerns about how it could affect people's health and the environment. On 9 October MEPs vote on whether shale gas exploration and extraction should be subject to mandatory assessments of their impact on the environment. Find out how shale gas drilling works in our infographic.
It's too early to say whether significant volumes can be extracted in the EU. However, shale gas exploration has already been permitted in a number of member states: Poland, Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK. If important discoveries are made, they could consider moving on to extraction. Other countries - such as France and Bulgaria - have decided for the time being to suspend exploitation plans.
On 21 November 2012 the Parliament adopted two non-binding resolutions, looking into the environmental, industrial and energy aspects of shale gas extraction.
The development and production of shale gas could lead to lower prices by increasing competition, create jobs and reduce our dependence on importing energy from other countries, thereby improving the security of our energy supply.
Shale gas extraction involves injecting large quantities of water into rock formations to recover gas trapped one or two kilometres beneath the surface. If the well has not been constructed properly, there could be contamination of groundwater. There is also the risk of blowouts, above ground leaks, seismic effects and wastewater and chemicals being spilled.