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Procedure : 2011/2308(INI)
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A7-0283/2012

Debates :

PV 20/11/2012 - 11
CRE 20/11/2012 - 11

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PV 21/11/2012 - 5.12
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P7_TA(2012)0443

Debates
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Environmental impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction activities - Industrial, energy and other aspects of shale gas and oil (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. - The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

- A7-0283/2012 by Bogusław Sonik, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the environmental impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction activities [2011/2308(INI)];

- A7-0284/2012 by Niki Tzavela, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on industrial, energy and other aspects of shale gas and shale oil [2011/2309(INI)].

Environmental aspects of shale gas and oil extraction activities

 
  
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  Rebecca Harms (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, I must return once again to the speech I made prior to voting time, on the basis of Article 6(1) of our rules on the use of Parliamentary premises. In these rules Parliament has come to an agreement that Parliamentary premises may not be used by companies pursuing economic interests that are directly connected to controversial votes linked to the economic interests of these companies. I fear that we have an exhibition on shale gas directly outside the Chamber that is incompatible with Article 6(1) of these rules. I ask the Bureau to clarify this immediately.

Secondly, I have checked whether the Citizens’ Initiative For Responsible Energy – this is the sign being used for this exhibition on shale gas – is included in our register of lobby groups. I cannot find this Citizens’ Initiative there. We drew up the register of lobby groups to create transparency in the area of lobbying. Every single one of the companies behind this Citizens’ Initiative is a firm with significant economic interests in Poland and in the field of shale gas. I would like to propose once again that either this exhibition be removed or that this Citizens’ Initiative sign be replaced immediately with the signs of the companies behind the Citizens’ Initiative.

I would also like to appeal to the hosts of this exhibition, Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament Mr Vidal-Quadras and Mr Protasiewicz, to support this initiative, as it is in keeping with the transparency rules set by this Parliament that such exhibitions do not take place in this form.

 
  
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  President. - Thank you for your comments. The Bureau will examine the issue and you will be updated accordingly.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, a comment on the Rules of Procedure: where are the Greens when environmental associations organise exhibitions in Parliament and confront elected MEPs with the words ‘we are the voice of the citizens’? I sometimes get the feeling that the Greens only accept democracy if the arguments suit them.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik, rapporteur. − (PL) Madam President, over the course of the many months I spent working on the report, I familiarised myself with the results of many expert appraisals carried out by scientists, engineers, practitioners and officials. My objective was to present a report which has not been written from behind a desk, but which provides a practical presentation and discussion of all aspects of the process of extracting this raw material and the technology that is used to achieve this. I visited sites where drilling for shale gas is taking place and I talked to politicians, ecologists and representatives of local communities. The experience I gathered has been reflected in my draft report.

I am pleased that it was possible to arrive at a balanced compromise in my committee, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, where the shadow rapporteurs shared my cautious approach, which places the emphasis on the highest environmental standards and tough requirements, but at the same time gives shale gas a chance, a chance for extraction to be commercially viable. Europe simply cannot afford not to make use of its own resources, which may not only help to reduce dependence on external supplies and improve EU energy security, but at the same time play a part in the policy of reducing emissions.

The main plank of my report is the reiterated calls for a review of current legislation at EU and national level, better implementation of existing legislation, creation of a catalogue of best available technologies and best industry practices, the highest technical standards, ongoing monitoring, full transparency of actions and liability of operators. One standard that should be beyond question is that of the duty to declare the chemical composition of hydraulic fluids in line with REACH, minimisation of water consumption during the fracturing process, effective recycling of flow-back water and chemicals and careful selection of well-bore sites.

It must not be forgotten that the success of the whole project will be decided by social acceptance and the consent of citizens. Continuous dialogue with the local population and a pan-European information and education campaign must therefore be guaranteed.

Shale gas, then, is a fuel which may be extracted and should be extracted in Europe. Successful commercialisation of unconventional gas has made the United States an exporter of this raw material with a potential that exceeds that of Russia. Europe is also faced with an opportunity to increase its independence from external supplies.

The Communication from the Commission on planned action in the energy sphere up to 2050 (Energy Roadmap 2050) states that gas will be critical for the transformation of the power generation system by helping to limit emissions, and that will undoubtedly be the case. In my view, a debate on this issue is needed at European level, and work needs to be done to establish fixed principles for cooperation and compromise in this area, but compromise based on facts and scientific results, compromise that would dismiss demagogy and a priori warnings that have been voiced on certain subjects.

It is in this context that I would like to appeal to all Members to reject the amendment which wrecks this compromise, an amendment which calls for a ban, and which imposes a moratorium on the use of fracking technology. Let a clear voice be heard from the European Parliament in tomorrow’s vote on the two reports on shale gas, saying that shale gas extraction is safe for the environment and for public health on condition that the highest environmental and safety standards are observed, and each Member State may make its own sovereign choice as to whether it wishes to make use of the potential which extraction of unconventional mineral fuels provides.

 
  
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  Niki Tzavela, rapporteur. − Madam President, Europe has the longest history in the world of the pursuit of progress and democracy. It was because of those European men and women who boldly and bravely paved the way for the exploration and exploitation of the continent’s resources that Europe became one of the leading powers in politics and economy.

Shale gas gives us all the opportunity to prove that our generation of politicians considers the continent’s natural resources and wealth as a challenge for growth and not as a threat. The recent evolution in the European context of shale gas developments suggests a growing need for a clear, predictable and coherent approach to unconventional fossil fuels. This is how we reach optimal decisions in an area involving social and environmental issues, industrial competitiveness and, in particular, public trust.

Based on American experience – because we do not have any European experience on this – shale gas is potentially the biggest energy development since the 1920s, as big a change as when we switched from using coal to oil. The shale gas-related developments in the USA will have a profound impact on global energy demand and geopolitics. The US has already surpassed Russia as the world’s largest gas producer and the price of gas in the US has collapsed, making the price in the US between USD 3 and 4 per unit, while in Europe the price is USD 10-14.

A European single market for gas has been a concept we have been hearing about from the Commission for some time now. One of the key and legitimate concerns of the European energy liberalisation project was that liberalisation would have limited effect unless there were new sources of gas. If states were still largely dependent on the same external suppliers for their gas liberalisation, a single market would not prosper.

Shale gas could add a new dynamic to the European gas market. This in turn could lead to increasing global gas to gas competition, having a major effect on prices and avoiding indexation to oil prices. With a correct safety approach, highest safety standards and the application of best available technologies, shale gas could be a huge gain to EU energy security and diversity, as well as a potential contributing factor to Europe’s reindustrialisation in the years to come.

Europe needs a vision and a clear message of how gas fits into its energy policy. Whether we use shale gas or not, in as little time as we have been hearing about it we have already been witnesses to its significance as a global energy trendsetter for markets, energy demand and cost partners. Shale gas is perhaps not the panacea for Europe’s energy problems overall. Unconventional fuels are still at an infant stage in Europe and we should explore the options available and the possible benefits as rigorously as we examine and analyse the potential environmental effects.

On the Commission’s side, coordination between DG Energy, DG Enterprise, DG Environment and DG Climate Action will now be vital as you take this forward. Commissioners, I wish you good luck for the sake, the goodwill and the survival of European citizens.

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, it is a rare opportunity to present some of the proposals together with a fellow-Commissioner. First, I would like to say that I wish, on behalf of the Commission, to thank Mr Sonik and also Ms Tzavela, as well as all the Members who have contributed to the development of this very comprehensive report. I will, of course, concentrate more on the report by Mr Sonik.

The initiative is very timely. As the report recognises, technological advancements have spurred a rapid commercial development of unconventional fossil fuels, especially shale gas, in certain parts of the world. Up to now, most of this has been outside Europe. Inside the European Union resource potentials are still subject to considerable uncertainty. As captured well in your report, public concerns over health and environmental risks have led a number of Member States to consider adapting their national legislation to deal with shale gas projects. Certain Member States have already postponed permitting decisions and some have even adopted bans. It is clear that the future development of shale gas will depend on the extent of public acceptance of fracking. Unless environmental and health risks are addressed in a proper way, and people are convinced that they are, then the development of this industry will not last. We need to face up to this issue and we need to face up to this issue now.

These risks are also the main focus in your report. It has identified the most salient issues calling for close follow-up, including a number of uncertainties or gaps in current EU legislation. Similar issues were also covered in the study which we released in September. I have discussed these issues in depth with my colleagues Günther Oettinger, who is sitting here next to me, and of course also Connie Hedegaard, and the Commission has now included in its work programme for next year, 2013, a new initiative that will strive to provide maximum legal clarity and predictability for market operators and citizens and prevent, reduce and manage climate and environmental risks in line with public expectations and in a harmonised manner across the European Union.

In this respect I am happy to see that our ideas are converging. The Commission’s impact assessment is already looking at options to manage risks and to address regulatory shortcomings. It will take into account the findings from recent studies released by the Commission and the Member States, as well as risk control measures put forward also in your report. We will assess how to prevent surface and sub-surface risks, to adopt monitoring, reporting and transparency requirements and finally to clarify the EU regulatory framework and remove potential obstacles with regard to both exploration and extraction activities.

To conclude, I believe that we can meet the essence of your requests through the actions that we are implementing or planning. We look forward to engaging with Parliament in the follow-up of this truly important initiative. I am also very much looking forward to today’s debate and will try to answer as many of your questions as possible at the end.

 
  
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  Günther Oettinger, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, honourable Members, to add to the comments of my colleague Mr Potočnik, I would also like to thank the two committees and the two responsible MEPs for the reports, which highlight the diversity of the issue of unconventional gas and oil energy resources, in particular shale gas. This is an issue that involves environmental protection and climate-related aspects, energy policy and industrial aspects, as well as social issues. The three studies carried out on behalf of the Commission, which we published a few weeks ago and are now analysing, form a parallel basis that will enable us to conduct a comprehensive consultation and arrive at a conclusion within the European Union.

We should not deceive ourselves: as for many other issues related to energy policy, there was also a broad range of opinions and interests in the area of shale gas. Some Member States are categorically against it, others have moratoriums in place and certain countries see shale gas as something that can make an important contribution to resolving the question of their energy independence.

The change in the United States is a far-reaching one: the Americans are largely independent of gas imports and will be able to decide whether they are even in a position to export gas. The gas price in the United States is currently only around a quarter to a third of the price being paid on the European Union’s gas markets. Shale gas provides flexibility and makes it possible to move away from long-term supply contracts with high gas prices linked to the global market price of oil, and US production is also indirectly bringing about a change on the global market: large quantities of LNG that were previously transported by ship to the United States from Nigeria and Qatar have now been freed up. This LNG is being integrated to a greater extent into the energy strategies of Japan – following the shutdown of nuclear power stations in the aftermath of Fukushima – and also Europe, with its existing and planned LNG terminals.

From our perspective, for the European gas market it is inconceivable for a number of reasons that shale gas will cover all of our gas requirements: all the initial analyses have shown that our deposits are considerably smaller and the costs of production here are higher. It is also clear that the European Union’s dense population of 500 million people will reduce the potential compared with that of the United States, whose deposits in some cases are in sparsely populated regions and states, even if it does not eliminate this potential altogether. Questions of acceptance also come into the equation.

For that reason we will steadfastly continue to develop our policy of completing the internal energy market in order to increase security of supply, further expand renewable energies and drive forward energy efficiency in an effective way. Shale gas will not replace the internal market, energy efficiency or renewable energy sources, but it can complement them.

At present we have a gas market within the EU with an annual consumption of around 540 billion cubic metres. A third of our resources are produced within the European Union, namely in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Over the next 15 to 20 years this potential, these production volumes, will decline markedly. One opportunity may be for shale gas to replace some of the existing conventional production volumes, so that every cubic metre that we previously produced in Europe does not have to be imported into Europe on a one-for-one basis in the future. In this respect shale gas could contribute to our objective of diversification.

At the moment only a small amount of test drilling has been carried out in the Member States. For that reason we will firmly support demonstration projects. We need more reliable information on the quantities of gas and on exploration costs.

One fascinating question will be whether European legislation will be necessary, that is to say whether – something for which Mr Potočnik will be responsible – the regulatory framework for the protection of groundwater and surface water, soil, the countryside and the natural environment that exists at European level is sufficient or whether supplementary European legislation will be needed.

In its work programme for 2013 the Commission has deliberately included an initiative for which several Commissioners are responsible – Mr Potočnik, Ms Hedegaard, Mr Tajani, Mr Barnier and myself – that will deal with the relevant environmental, climate protection, energy and industrial aspects. We are particularly interested in the dialogue that you have started today, in the points you have raised, in your opinions and in the extremely objective reports of the two committees, which will provide a basis for the conclusions to be reached together next year.

 
  
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  Catherine Grèze, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Development. − (FR) Madam President, I am absolutely against the extraction of shale gas.

These are matters that go way beyond our European borders with appalling effects on our water resources. Imagine yourselves what the consequences could be, and how devastating they could be, in developing countries where access to water is vital.

But the extraction of shale gas is also about land grabbing and poor land quality; in other words, it brings into question food sovereignty in many countries.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, despite the publicity, despite the brazen lobbying that has been carried out even at the very door of the hemicycle, I would urge you to shoulder your responsibilities. We need a binding legal framework for European businesses.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (ECR), blue-card question. – (PL) Madam President, Ms Grèze, are you aware that the generation of 1 kilowatt of electricity from coal requires the consumption of a greater quantity of water than generation of the same 1 kilowatt of electricity from unconventional gas, or did that fact escape your notice?

 
  
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  Catherine Grèze, blue-card answer. – (FR) Madam President, Mr Szymański, are you really asking me to choose between the lesser of two evils? It is like choosing between the plague and cholera. Allow me to ask in return whether you are aware that in a large number of developing countries there is no water?

 
  
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  President. − Colleagues, I just wanted to inform you that as regards blue cards I will accept those cards which are raised during the initial speech of the speaker and not during the question which is put to him. Apparently we will have a lot of blue cards during this discussion.

 
  
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  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE), blue-card question to Catherine Grèze. – (PL) Madam President, I have a question about which developing countries intend to exploit shale gas, or which developing countries intend to carry out studies to find out whether they actually have any shale gas because, to be honest, I am not in possession of this information.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR), blue-card question to Catherine Grèze. – Madam President, I also raised my blue card during the speech by Mrs Grèze.

I simply want to ask Mrs Grèze what on earth the exploitation of shale gas reserves in Europe has to do with the water supplies in developing nations.

Do you know that the exploitation of shale gas takes place usually about 2 000 metres below ground level? The aquifer which you say is going to be destroyed is only a few metres below ground level.

How are the two connected? This is not sensible.

 
  
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  Catherine Grèze (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Madam President, what an honour to have to reply to all of these questions!

Regarding the point about which developing countries are carrying out research on shale gas extraction, as far as I know countries including South Africa and Morocco have already undertaken some research. But you can reply on multinationals the world over to seek out the last drop of a resource wherever it may be.

On the issue of water, raised by my colleague, and the impact on water resources, it seems we have different sources of information. I saw an excellent film, Gasland, which is worth seeing, and which showed the truly dramatic consequences, no pun intended, on water resources and human and animal health in the United States, which as you know is a highly developed and technologically advanced country.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. − (DE) Madam President, as the rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs I would like to point out once again what the results of its deliberations were: firstly, I refer to the fact that the existing Environmental Impact Assessment Directives, Mining Waste Directive, Seveso II Directive, Habitats Directive, and so on, do of course apply.

However, as the two Commissioners have already noted, there are still problems here with regard to implementation and/or the incorporation of the relevant factors into the annexes and/or into the implementation of the corresponding measures. The Committee on Legal Affairs also made reference to this and asked – the Commissioners have said they want to do so – for legal changes to be made as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, if you would allow me to make a comment as an MEP rather than as the rapporteur for the opinion, a memorandum would be extremely useful, as we would then have time and the opportunity to align the European Union’s laws with this new technology and to take everything into account sufficiently, to ensure that in the future no damage is caused either within or outside Europe.

 
  
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  Jan Březina, on behalf of the PPE Group. - (CS) Madam President, I wish to mention the forecasts made 10 years ago, according to which today, in 2012, the United States would be an importer of natural gas and the Russian Gazprom would already have started planning LNG terminals on the Pacific coast of the Russian Federation in preparation for lucrative contacts with the United States. Today, 10 years later, the reality is completely different. Yes, terminals are being planned, but on the west coast of the United States to supply the Pacific region, which has a gas deficit. What happened? Technological advances in drilling and in hydraulic fracturing have today enabled the United States to be a net exporter and, furthermore, CO2 emissions produced in the United States have decreased. In Europe we are responding to this success in two ways. The first is a moratorium, which is proposed by our great green inquisition. The second is an overly optimistic response, which expects some European countries to be self-sufficient in natural gas. Neither of these approaches is correct.

As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), I have endeavoured to champion the approach that guarantees a high degree of environmental protection using the best technology and with the objective of obtaining basic data regarding the options for the use of shale gas. In my opinion, at the present stage all this may be ensured under current legislation whilst respecting the principle of subsidiarity, that is at Member State level. It will only be possible to initiate a serious debate in each country as to how best to exploit shale gas after geological and technological verification. In any event, it is good to leave this opportunity open and not block the possibility to exploit this potentially interesting energy source. I therefore ask for your support when voting.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Madam President, both of the European Commissioners have highlighted that today there is a lot of uncertainty about shale gas in Europe, a lot of unanswered questions. We do not know how many commercially exploitable reserves there are inside the European Union. We do not know about the environmental constraints and whether or not our current law covers shale gas. That is why if we look at the situation today only two countries in the EU are having exploratory drilling for shale for fracking – the UK and Poland – and in the UK there is a temporary moratorium because there was seismic activity in the first area where there was fracking.

We have an opportunity as European legislators to make sure that if any country chooses to go ahead and exploit shale gas, we have in place proper environmental controls. When we had the hearing in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, one lesson we learnt from our American counterparts and legislators was not to have to play catch-up after shale gas extraction has started. A lot of the problems in the US were because at the beginning there were no environmental laws to protect the water table. Yes, there are problems with water contamination in the United States; they are getting them under control now, but there were problems. We have this opportunity, this space, and I hope we will take that space and support the report of the Environment Committee, which is a very balanced report on shale gas, and that is why it got a big majority in committee. It puts to one side the question of a moratorium and I know that an amendment has been tabled about this, because we all know that the decision on whether or not to frack is not a decision we will have to take: it is one that national parliamentarians will have to take.

I hope that whatever happens on that amendment tomorrow, colleagues in this House will support the Environment Committee’s report. We see unity today from the European Commission on fracking and I hope that this Parliament can show similar unity.

 
  
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  Fiona Hall, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, I would like to thank Mrs Tzavela for working very openly with the shadows on this controversial report. As Linda McAvan has just said, it falls to Member States to decide whether they wish to go forward with exploiting shale gas deposits on their territories, but that exploitation must be in full compliance with EU environmental legislation.

The Commission needs to be very vigilant and I welcome the Commissioner’s statement about Commission action in the forthcoming work programme. We need a tightening of legislation with regard to mandatory environmental impact assessments, for example, and the separation of the licensing and authorisation processes, as in offshore drilling.

But shale gas poses a threat that goes much wider than the local environment. For a start, we do not know exactly what its footprint is in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, including the fugitive methane emissions which tend to occur during fracking. The studies so far about whether it is better than coal, worse than coal, better than gas, worse than other gases, are contradictory, so the research currently being undertaken by the Joint Research Centre is crucially important. I would urge the Commission to ask for it to be completed as soon as possible.

Finally, and most importantly, burning gas unabated without capturing the CO2 is simply not compatible with tackling climate change and the path to decarbonisation. It does not matter how much shale gas lies beneath the soil of Europe. If we care about climate change, we need to leave it in the ground. It will not go off. It does not have a sell-by date. Its time may come in the future, thanks to CCS, but, for today, the only climate-friendly way of achieving energy security in Europe is to exploit renewable energy sources, not shale gas.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (ECR), blue-card question. (PL) Madam President, Ms Hall, you raised an important problem, in the shape of the methane that is volatilised from places where unconventional gas is extracted. I would like to ask whether you have any information on the subject of how much methane is produced from the 4 000-km Yamal gas pipeline, which imports more than 30 billion m3 of gas from the north of Russia, and the efficiency rating of the compressors on the 4 000 km of the Yamal gas pipeline via which we are happy to import gas from Russia.

 
  
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  Fiona Hall (ALDE), blue-card answer. – As we say colloquially in English, two wrongs do not make a right.

It is also of concern that methane is lost in the pipelines from Russia, but as we start this new process of extracting shale gas in some countries, we need to get the environmental legislation right and clearly it is the case that methane does escape. It has been a cause of pollution locally.

What has not been taken into account yet is how much that worsens the greenhouse gas effect when we exploit shale gas, and it is precisely because I do not know – nobody knows – at the moment exactly how much that we need the research from the Joint Research Council to look into this and to give us some figures we can rely on.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (SV) Madam President, I would firstly like to remind people about Ms Harms’s request for the Conference of Presidents to quickly reach a decision on the exhibition outside. Our rules for lobbyists state that it must be clearly stated who the sender is. If a lobbyist claims to represent the citizen yet is in reality a company, then this is not in line with our guidelines. I hope you are able to reach a decision quickly.

Moving on to shale gas. I think that this is the ultimate illustration of the extreme greed of people who drill down thousands of metres beneath the surface in order to blow apart rock to extract the remnants of fossil energy.

It provides a tragic illustration of where humanity is today.

We should not waste what little capital we have in investments to extract even more fossil fuel. The reserves of coal, gas and oil that have already been discovered are so vast that if we were to use them we would suffer a full-scale climatic disaster.

To waste money in finding even more fossil fuel constitutes the destruction of capital and the environment and goes against the future of humanity.

Moreover, there are certain specific problems associated with shale gas, namely the fracking referred to in the resolution.

We demand an update of Europe’s environmental laws. This concerns environmental impact assessments, the Waste Directive and how we address geological stability, water use, land use and the classification of toxic fracturing fluids as hazardous waste as well as the correct classification of such fluids in accordance with the REACH Regulation.

Additionally, the resolution contains a requirement for a ban in particularly sensitive areas. It is important that we maintain this, and I advocate a general moratorium until all this has been investigated. This gas has no future.

Finally, it is important that we measure base values so that we are not faced with the claims that have been made in the United States, where all environmental information has been concealed through the signing of contracts. Moreover, it is illegal in Europe to conceal environmental information concerning the leakage of gases and other problems in order to ensure that this information does not become public knowledge.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE), blue-card question. – I have attended many exhibitions concerning renewables here in Parliament. These were full of firms producing solar cells, windmills and so on. Why is everything okay in this case, but in the opposite case when there is an exhibition concerning shale gas without any logos or firms this is dangerous? Please explain it to me.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. – Madam President, there are two specific problems.

The exhibition is in front of the plenary chamber and is before the vote, and additionally they are not being honest about who they are. It is actually better that you have your logo and that you are honest about who you are and who you are representing rather than hiding behind it and calling yourselves a Citizens’ Initiative instead of naming the companies behind it, which is actually against the rules. To be a company and say who you are is not against the rules. That is why I am complaining.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
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  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE), blue-card question.(PL) Madam President, to start with, you spoke of a moratorium. I do not know whether the individuals who keep speaking here about a moratorium on shale gas are aware that it says in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that each country may choose its own energy basket. It is not possible to introduce bans and moratoriums. We are not asking for a moratorium on nuclear power stations, demanding that France shut them down, and it is equally not possible to demand any other ban on other energy sources. All we can do is think about how to regulate such matters to the benefit of all, bearing in mind the economic issues.

Something else that I would like to say is: do you know that fracking and the substances that are forced underground are currently controlled under the European REACH programme? This is not just some kind of free-for-all.

There is also a third point. I want to refer to this matter of the exhibition. One of the participants was a coalition for citizens, as there are whole communities in Poland who want to extract shale gas on their land. They simply want this.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. – (SV) Madam President, with regard to the REACH Regulation, a registration must be made for a specific use, and I have imposed the requirement that if a party wishes to use these fluids, they must register for the specific application within the areas before these chemicals can be used.

With regard to the moratorium, it is true that the countries are entitled to use their resources in accordance with EU legislation, and that is why I said ‘moratorium’ and not ‘ban’. A moratorium means that we will wait for the European legislation to cover all possible negative consequences of this before we start using the fluids, and therefore it is logical to demand a moratorium until this legislation is in place; thus this is entirely in line with the Treaty.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the ECR Group. – (PL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, releasing the potential of unconventional gas in Europe means a more competitive energy market, lower prices for the ordinary citizen and for businesses, and thus greater competitiveness for our economy. Ultimately it means a capacity to reduce CO2 emissions more effectively and support for renewable energy sources, which sometimes need such support for the simple reason that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. I do not understand why fans of renewable energy have such a problem with gas, even though it is their only way out, as American experience demonstrates. This potential is very well dealt with in the report by Ms Tzavela from the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. May I thank her very much for it and congratulate her.

The report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety looks by comparison as if it has been written on some quite different subject. It offers us a black, even catastrophic image of this industry. Of its 74 points, precisely 3 offer us a non-critical, non-admonitory and balanced way of talking about gas. The hard-line left only sees gas as a hazardous substance, as destruction of the landscape, pollution of water and air, toxic waste, leaking methane – in the end, and this is the real cherry on the cake, inflated land prices in Africa are linked to the use of unconventional gas in Europe. It is just as if we did not have the highest and best standards of environmental protection in Europe, which Member States are glad to introduce, along with industry. As a result of breaching the compromise provisions, the report is a total mess: in one place there is talk of a potential for reduction, and then in another place it says that CO2 emissions may actually be higher; in one place it says that the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive is applicable, and in literally three other places it says that this Directive should be applied. By accepting these documents, we are categorically turning our backs on a major and feasible change to power generation in Europe. We are coming out against security of supply, and ultimately against competitive prices. These are the reasons why conservatives and reformers are unable to support this report in this form.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Sandrine Bélier (Verts/ALE), blue-card question. – (FR) Madam President, I have a question for my colleagues about the Polish demand, because I get the impression that this debate is becoming nationalised and that by authorising shale gas exploitation in Poland we are trying to give it European legitimacy.

As regards potential, what do you have to say about the figures and the potential that were announced and then the subsequent discovery that there is seven times less potential for exploiting and exploring shale gas in Poland? What do you have to say about subsidiarity, seeing as you are invoking the principle? Does Poland intend to apply subsidiarity to environmental regulations? As it stands today, this falls under European jurisdiction and no country may decide not to apply the regulations.

Finally, on the question of acceptance, what answer would you give to the European public, especially those who have lodged complaints with the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions?

 
  
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  Andrés Perelló Rodríguez (S&D), blue-card question. (ES) Madam President, it is worth wondering whether we are in a position to confirm that shale gas will bring us wealth and well-being, but I would like to ask whether you can confirm that the extraction of shale gas will not have serious repercussions on the environment or human health?

Can anyone in this House confirm this? If so, why then do you think it has been banned in some countries, including in some US states? Why would they want to renounce the benefits to the well-being and the economies of their states?

That is the question that I would like someone to commit to answering this afternoon.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, blue-card answer. – (PL) Madam President, there is only one rational way to assess the potential of our reserves. We need more well-bores, and it is not politicians but the geology and investors who will be able to decide how to make use of this potential.

Where the introduction of environmental regulations is concerned, Poland is a country that does not have any case before the European Court of Justice relating to non-introduction of any regulation in the sphere of EU environmental law, and I do not know anyone in Poland, either in politics or in business, who would not like to apply these rules, because they make this market better for everyone; they make it a fairer market.

What shall I say to the people? I shall tell them this much, that if anyone is a citizen living, let us say, in the Massif Central, that person has every right to decide on this, through a political route, to decide not to use unconventional sources of gas and oil. I would, however, say a firm ‘no’ to those citizens who, living in the Massif Central, say that such investments should not be made in Pomerania, because that is a bit too far away.

Mr Perelló – on the question of prosperity. This absolutely is a huge opportunity, as I have said, and one which may have an impact on the cost of energy. Energy price levels today mean that our ability to conduct an industrial policy is becoming increasingly squeezed, and they mean that we are losing our competitiveness. Our countries are falling in productivity rankings because of the cost of energy. Obviously activities like this are always a risk, and therefore we must apply the environmental standards that are prescribed by EU law, and we want to do this.

 
  
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  Tadeusz Cymański, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (PL) Madam President, for many months now in the debate over shale gas we have seen a clash of opinions, interests and emotions, big emotions. As shadow rapporteur on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, I am once again seeing the danger of a partial non-objective view of the problem of shale gas extraction.

Citizens of many countries – Poland, for example – see in the shale gas deposits that have been identified an enormous opportunity for a reduction in energy prices and a break away from external energy supplies, especially from the East. I very much regret that ecologists do not view shale gas as an opportunity to decarbonise our power generation, which today is based particularly on coal. Current conditions are making it increasingly difficult to put a climate package into effect, particularly further CO2 reductions, and these conditions are leading to huge economic and social problems in many countries. Shale gas is therefore an enormous opportunity, and not a threat.

The European Commission has now announced its intention to bring in new regulations in respect of environmentally safe hydrocarbon extraction, even though analyses, and also Ms Tzavela’s report, have accepted the fact that EU regulations adequately – and I stress, adequately – cover the unconventional gas sector. It looks as if only cooperation between the governments of the Member States may hold off a block on gas exploitation.

To conclude, in this difficult context I wish once again to recognise the rapporteurs of both committees, who appreciate the strategic significance of shale gas for European power generation.

I call upon my colleagues and fellow Members to support Ms Tzavela’s report and to reject the amendment submitted a few days ago to Mr Sonik’s report, calling for a ban on hydraulic fracking.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (PT) Madam President, it is true, and has already been mentioned many times here, that there are many things we do not know about the extraction of shale gas. However, there are also many that we do know, and we should not forget them. We know, for example, that each operation to extract shale gas uses more than 19 million litres of drinking water, which would provide for the needs of 1 000 European citizens for a year.

We also know that each extraction of shale gas involves pumping 300 tonnes into the ground, that is up to 300 tonnes of chemicals, about 80 % of which remain in the soil and do not come out.

We also know that each extraction of shale gas involves the release of radioactive elements and heavy metals into the subsoil which, together with the evaporation of toxic waste resulting from the process, is a real threat to public health. This presents a danger of contamination of drinking water resources and that is a real and imminent threat.

Knowing this, we also realise that shale gas extraction is an apparently easy answer, when only thinking short term about industry and profit, ignoring people, the future and the environment. However, represented in this House is also the Europe that knows that water is an essential, vital and important resource, that knows how to protect the health of its citizens and that it must protect this, and that seeks to reach agreements to avoid emissions and to propose energy efficiency, because we know that environmental standards are important – both environmental and health standards. So when you do not know everything, at the very least you have to be cautious. You may very well want to do this, but do not do it in our name or in the name of the citizens that we are here to represent.

(The speaker agreed to take two blue-card questions under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D), blue-card question. – (FR) Madam President, does Ms Matias realise that in Canada they have managed to recycle between 80 and 90 % of water on new shale gas operating sites? Does she know that in Ukraine new fracking technology has been developed that does not need chemical additives? Does she not believe that it is possible for advances to be made in the technology used in the United States?

 
  
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  Paweł Robert Kowal (ECR), blue-card question. – (PL) Madam President, I have a question: do you appreciate that when any type of energy is extracted, water is in effect consumed, and could you manage to make a brief comparative analysis of how much water is consumed by, for example, nuclear power, how much in mines and so on? My view is that we should not be using arguments that are entirely populist, as they relate to every kind of energy extraction.

 
  
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  Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL), blue-card answer. (PT) Madam President, regarding the question on nuclear power I find it interesting that you have put this question to me, because you are asking me to choose between two uses of water that I find absolutely unacceptable. We are talking about water as an essential commodity, as an essential commodity for Humanity, and drinking water – that is what we are talking about. So it is impossible for me to compare the nuclear industry and shale gas extraction, because if you want my opinion on both, I think they are a total waste of water when it could be used for purposes that are much more useful for Humanity.

With regard to the examples given by Mr Goebbels, it is not by chance that he mentions only two examples, one concerning the recycling of water and the other relating to the non-addition of chemicals, because in the overwhelming majority of explorations, in the overwhelming majority, what we are seeing is a total waste of drinking water and the addition of chemicals that stay in the ground. What I said and I repeat is: we do not know everything; there are some things we know. Our obligation, as a minimum, is to respond to the needs of people and the environment, and that is a duty of care that we must fulfil, both in our name and on behalf of those we represent.

 
  
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  Nick Griffin (NI). - Madam President, the fracking debate is full of deceit by those who stand to profit from shale gas or who see it as a weapon in neocon hostility to Russia. We are told that most fracking in the USA is by small and medium-sized enterprises, yet few real SMEs have the capital or technology for fracking. What looked like SMEs are in fact limited liability fronts for giant corporations. They exist solely to spare the parent companies the huge cost of eventual clean-up operations, which will therefore fall on the taxpayers. The game is simple: loot, pollute and scoot.

Claims of massive job creation are lies too. The Public Policy Institute of New York State claimed that 500 new wells per year would produce 62 000 jobs, yet a review by Food and Water Watch showed that the true figure is fewer than 7 000, scarcely one tenth of the promised boom. In every part of the USA where shale gas is exploited, house prices crash by 25%, with environmental devastation from hundreds of platforms and huge, poisoned slurry ponds. The longer-term threat to water supplies could be even more costly.

Gas fracking is short-termist, boom-and-bust exploitation. Yes, it produces energy, but so would burning all our forests. It makes no sense except to lobbyists and politicians in the pay of the companies doing the looting. The answer to the energy crunch is not short-term fracking but long-term, safe, sustainable nuclear power and electricity- and hydrogen-fuelled transport systems. That is the energy economy of the future.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: JACEK PROTASIEWICZ
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pilar del Castillo Vera (PPE). - (ES) Mr President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, what we are debating today are two reports: one by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and another by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. The aim of these reports is, among other things, to convey to the Commission Parliament’s views on shale gas so that at a later date, as the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Potočnik, has said, the Commission can present a report on a series of measures relating to this energy source to enable harmonised action within the European Union.

I believe that both rapporteurs have put forward the points of view of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in a very reasonable manner. Logically their perspectives are not exactly the same. In the case of the two Commissioners, they have set out their vision with a great deal of balance and in a measured way, which is essential for any debate such as this to take place.

Someone said before I took the floor that one cannot debate using emotions and when emotions are running high. I ask you who can name or talk about a single energy source that does not carry risks and opportunities for developing the benefits that it brings. The same applies to this one. If humanity had rejected every advance, every encounter, every discovery of the possibility of developing an energy source solely due to the risks that it carried, we would have made no progress at all.

We have to insist much more that the technology is as good as possible, that there is investment into research and that this new source of energy can be developed, with all the guarantees in place, in a measured way and without emotion.

 
  
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  Ivailo Kalfin (S&D).(BG) Mr President, shale gas is undoubtedly an energy resource, and the big question here is whether this resource can be obtained and used in an acceptable way. What is happening at the moment, and the method of fracking used to yield shale gas, carries too many risks. This is reflected in studies commissioned by the European Commission. The risks are to groundwater and surface waters, the air, soil, and seismic effects. We must not close our eyes to all these risks. They are very high and with the technologies currently used, the extraction of shale gas is unacceptable. Yes, it is good to have a new energy source, but the question is: ‘At what price?’

There are several conditions which are not currently being met. Firstly, there is a need for new technologies to be developed. The hydraulic fracking technology used today obviously carries enormous risks and gives no guarantees. Secondly, we need full information. We all know very well that large companies conceal the methods, chemicals and processes used to extract shale gas, and this is no accident. Thirdly, there should be guarantees and economic commitment on the part of the extraction companies. This is not happening. We know of many places in the world where the environment has been destroyed following poor usage and improper compliance with the law. We need public agreement, including a cross-border agreement. We see how in many countries permission for fracking is given without proper public consultation. This is currently lacking. We must look at what is happening around the world. If new technologies are developed and they are proven to be completely safe, then we should not object to any energy resource. At the moment, however, such technologies do not exist. We need new legislation. We cannot impose a European moratorium, but we can say that shale gas carries a price that is paid by the local population. Companies benefit, while the local communities pay. The European Union must put in place barriers and limits that are sufficient to ensure that this method is used safely, if at all.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR), blue-card question. – (PL) Mr President, Mr Kalfin, do you not think that it would be better if the Bulgarian Government were to take care of the safety, including the ecological safety, of Bulgarian citizens, and the Polish Government were to take care of the safety of Polish citizens, and not for the whole EU to get involved in who should take care of what safety?

Another question: could you – since you said that earthquakes are one reason why we should refrain from extracting shale gas – tell us when there was last an earthquake in Poland and what it reached on the Richter scale?

 
  
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  Ivailo Kalfin (S&D), blue-card answer. – Mr President, I agree that this is a national decision, and I can inform you that in Bulgaria the government imposed a moratorium on shale gas because of pressure from the local population. I am proud that this decision was made because of citizens’ pressure on the government.

In terms of seismic risk, if you see the latest research in the UK, you can be very sure that a seismic risk exists. This is proved in our Member State, the United Kingdom.

 
  
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  Corinne Lepage (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioners, exploiting shale gas is completely incompatible with a genuine policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to become a post-oil society but we are not going to achieve that by relying on unconventional fossil fuel reserves.

The impact of fracking on the environment and health is totally unacceptable. The effects it has on the environment, health and water resources cannot be allowed to happen in Europe. Furthermore, people are strongly opposed to it. I have been an MEP for three and a half years and I can honestly say I have never seen such intense lobbying as there has been around this report. It is completely unacceptable and quite simply implies a desire to see it forced through against the European public’s wishes.

Furthermore, there is no guarantee of the profitability we are being promised. In the United States, operating companies are currently in severe financial straits and now that the United States is going to make it mandatory to recover methane –because, yes, gentlemen, in answer to your question, methane emissions are a real problem – the costs are only going to increase. As a result, there is no evidence that it is profitable.

That is why I signed the amendment, as it calls for a moratorium on fracking, simply because it is precisely during this period of study and establishing legal frameworks that a moratorium should apply.

Finally, I call on my colleagues to reject out of hand the report presented by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and to vote in favour of deleting certain paragraphs which state that shale gas plays a central role in transforming the energy system and that public opposition may be the result of misinformation or lack of information. Perhaps it is time to stop treating the European public as idiots, as nothing could be further from the truth!

(Applause)

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR), blue-card question. – Mrs Lepage said that shale gas is incompatible with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Is she aware of the fact that in the past five years in America, where they have been exploiting shale gas successfully, US emissions are down 450 million tonnes while we in Europe, pursuing a green agenda, have seen our emissions actually rise?

 
  
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  Corinne Lepage (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, I cannot check your figures, but do you not think rather that it is the recession that has caused the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States?

It is not funny, not funny at all!

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer (ALDE), blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, Ms Lepage, are you therefore willing to accept that it is a question of physics rather than a lobbying question; that if you burn gas more efficiently than coal, there are fewer CO2 emissions than with coal-based power generation? This means, for example, that if we ultimately shut down our coal-fired power stations in Europe – a development that is already taking place in the United States – and bring gas-fired power stations on stream, CO2 emissions will fall. That is my question.

My second question, which follows on from the first, is as follows: are you willing to accept that mining less coal possibly also has less of an impact on the environment than shale gas exploration may have, in other words that coal mining has a greater environmental impact than shale gas exploration?

 
  
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  Corinne Lepage (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, Let me answer both of your questions.

There would need to be an extremely detailed analysis of the life cycle of both to be able to compare them as equivalents. As you know, because Germany was the pioneer, there are techniques for mining coal which are far cleaner now than they were in the past and which will lead to a considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, I do think it is useful to draw a comparison between them.

Regarding your second question, Mr Krahmer, we cannot have our cake and eat it, or in other words, coal and gas. However, the point is that today very often we do. Moreover, I was talking in general terms. As you are well aware, the oil production peak probably came in 2008 or 2009. If we exploit all the unconventional resources around the world on a massive scale, we will not be talking about the world being two or three degrees warmer; it will be five, six or seven degrees.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD), blue-card question. – (IT) Mr President, personally, I have not been contacted by any lobby groups in favour of shale gas, despite the fact that I sit on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and am convinced that this is a resource we should be exploiting with the requisite care. What I want to know is why you did not make the same accusation when lots of us received thousands of abusive emails, simply for voting in favour of animal experimentation for scientific purposes.

 
  
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  Corinne Lepage (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, It goes without saying that I am not accusing you, nor would I accuse you, of anything. In fact, I am not accusing anyone of anything because I do not like accusing people without evidence, but I do not really see the link between animal testing and shale gas. I think we can agree to differ or perhaps share the same views on animal testing, I’m not really sure.

It is true that as MEPs we receive thousands of emails, but this is the first time I have seen an exhibition like this on the very day when we are voting in the Plenary Assembly of the European Parliament. It is something quite extraordinary and should be recorded.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE), blue-card question. – (PL) Mr President, we were talking here about greenhouse gases, and you pointed out, Ms Lepage, that there are a lot more of these when shale gas is extracted, and some Members have already spoken about this. I would like to ask whether you are familiar with the Commission report which clearly indicates that when shale gas is extracted there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions than when coal is extracted, and also that there are fewer emissions of this kind than when Russian gas is transported from Siberia to Europe.

Secondly, are you aware that there are very large communities that wish to extract shale gas because this will bring a radical change in their economic situation, and in jobs and investment in their region? There really are such people – I know them, because I come from that region and it is that region for which I work.

 
  
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  Corinne Lepage (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, It is absolutely legitimate for communities to demand that, but I would draw your attention to the fact that there are others that have refused outright to allow shale gas exploitation.

That is precisely why, if this is the way we are going, we need a very robust legal framework with a guarantee that any damage caused to individuals will be paid for by those exploiting the shale gas, because that is the bare minimum we can demand.

Once guarantees were in place, I am not sure that shale gas exploitation would still be profitable and that those parties who want to exploit it now would still be in favour of doing so.

 
  
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  Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioners, in my view there has been an extraordinary degree of misinformation during this debate. Why?

Because, in the first instance, we had an exhibition – I think Polish Members arranged it – that looks as if it is on the part of citizens but, when you look more closely, it turns out it is financed by a coalition of shale gas industry associations. I would say that is false advertising; it is masquerading as something it is not! That is the problem we have with this exhibition.

Secondly, you may have forgotten, but the Commissioners mentioned it, there are reports which the Commission requested. I would ask you to read them carefully, because the report on the environment shows all too clearly that there is a risk of polluting surface water and groundwater and of depleting water resources. The impact on the soil can be devastating and can also lead to atmospheric pollution. Yet people say there are no such risks.

It is not a question of being for or against shale gas, because decisions on energy mix are a question of national sovereignty. Our task, as elected officials, as MEPs, is to protect the European public. These reports show that there are clearly identified shortcomings in the legislation: poor adaptation of the Water Framework Directive, management of waste needs to be integrated into the Mining Waste Directive, and fracking needs to be integrated into the Environmental Impact Assessments Directive. If we do not overcome these failings, we will face serious difficulties, as seen in the United States and Canada.

Furthermore, companies should be fully liable. They should have to prove that they have sufficient financial guarantees to honour the polluter pays principle in the event of environmental damage. It is not up to industry to decide what our energy future will be, but up to the citizens.

Finally, with the support of around a hundred MEPs, we have tabled an amendment calling for a moratorium on fracking in the European Union. I hope as many MEPs as possible will remember their responsibilities when it comes to voting and will show that lobbyists do not hold all the power in Brussels.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Andrzej Grzyb (PPE), blue-card question. – (PL) Mr President, Ms Rivasi is known for her highly critical attitude to this source of energy, and she not infrequently challenges even national-level decisions on this matter. However, Ms Rivasi, you did pay a visit to Poland with the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and you saw what Polish environmental protection regulations are like. I recall that at that time you stated with some considerable recognition that we introduced this process very early on, back in the 1970s, in fact. Do you not think that American examples – even if certain mistakes were made there – ought not to be transposed onto European soil, that there are countries in the European Union which, although they may only recently have become Member States, nevertheless have environmental protection legislation and authority in this matter to an extent that permits them to exercise genuine environmental protection – protection of water resources, land, and many other resources that are tied in to the process of testing for and exploiting gas?

 
  
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  Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Grzyb, I would like to stress that Poland is in breach of the Water Framework Directive. You have already been asked to adhere to the standards laid down in that directive.

The second problem with fracking is its social acceptability. The Commissioner mentioned this earlier. When people are made aware that exploitation comes with risks, it is still up to them to decide, as was the case in France and Bulgaria.

At the same time, in relation to the risk presented by CO2, which came up just now, shale gas cannot replace all sources of energy. You have to develop renewables. Europe is doing just that, Commissioner Oettinger spoke about it, and you also have the opportunity to do so in Poland.

 
  
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  Anna Rosbach (ECR).(DA) Mr President, Commissioner, yes, it seems we now have a very heated debate; however, my country actually also has large quantities of underground shale gas in some areas. Ms McAvan said that test drilling has only been carried out in the UK and Poland. No! France is also currently carrying out test drilling in Denmark. However, the question is actually how we handle this new energy source. On the one hand, shale gas provides us with an opportunity to achieve energy independence, and this unconventional gas could replace conventional energy sources. On the other hand, we well know through bitter experience that drilling underground has in a number of places led to serious damage to the surrounding environment and groundwater in particular. Therefore, it is understandable, in my country at least, that the potential neighbours of the drilling sites do not feel particularly safe. However, when we now consider together the energy forms that will make up Europe’s future energy supply, it is important that we have a long-term perspective, because after all any damage will only become apparent after many years of drilling. There may be unstable subsoil, as we have seen in Germany and the United States, water pollution, environmental damage and costs for both humans and animals. We must therefore not allow ourselves to be blinded by short-term gains without taking the long-term costs into consideration. Nor must we believe that shale gas can suddenly solve all of our energy problems. We must focus on a broad mix of energy sources, ranging from gas from food waste to renewable energy and, in some countries, shale gas. We must adapt the legislation in this area as quickly as possible and accelerate research and development in order to improve safety in connection with drilling to ensure that a new energy adventure does not impact on either citizens or the environment. It is also important that we allow individual Member States to decide whether or not they wish to permit drilling for shale gas. We must not force countries to say what they must or must not use.

 
  
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  Niki Tzavela (EFD). - Mr President, this is a general question to everybody who has spoken up to now. They referred to lobbyists. Please, since I am the rapporteur of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), I do not need any lobbyists to influence me. I am old enough to have my own opinion. So, with all due respect, please, criticise what I have written but do not refer to my text as being the outcome of lobbyists or influenced by lobbyists. This is my text. The shadow rapporteurs have worked on this and we have come to a consensus on many things. This is the product of collective work that has been done within the ITRE Committee. The criticism should be of us as writers with no reference to lobbying or that lobbyists have influenced us.

The second question is the following. Since I am the rapporteur on this, do you not think that I have taken into account all the hazards and all the risks that shale gas may pose? As I told you from the beginning, this is a challenge for growth and not a threat. This is the scope in which I have seen this text.

 
  
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  Paul Nuttall (EFD). - Mr President, on the face of it, and listening to this debate, I must say that shale gas is probably the most exciting development in the sphere of energy since the discovery of North Sea oil. It will benefit my own region in particular because we in the North West of England are sitting on 4.6 trillion cubic feet of shale, which means that we have the largest shale reserves in Europe. This could provide energy for the UK for up to 50 years and create tens of thousands of jobs in the North West of England.

We also know from evidence in the United States that shale gas can reduce energy prices by up to 30%, which would be a welcome break for hard-working people in the UK in a time of recession.

Lastly, shale gas can also provide us with much-needed energy security, because we can become more self-sufficient and not so reliant on the Middle East and Russia for our energy supply. Shale gas would bring more jobs, cheaper energy prices and energy security. To me it seems obvious that shale must form a central part of any of our future energy policies.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Sandrine Bélier (Verts/ALE), blue-card question. – (FR) Mr President, My question is very short and simple. There was no answer just before about the expert reports on the exploration and exploitation of shale gas causing micro earthquakes – we have studies from Great Britain and the United States. What is your answer to that in terms of energy choice and the impact of shale gas exploitation and exploration on ground stability?

 
  
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  Paul Nuttall (EFD), blue-card answer. – Let us not call them earthquakes because they are not. They are tiny tremors, so let us have none of this green nonsense trying to blow things up and create scare stories.

In May this year a government-appointed panel said that fracking is safe in the UK and we can move ahead with stricter legislation. In July the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineers also said that it will not contaminate water supplies, so there is an answer straight to your question. Let us not get caught up in green scare stories, because you have driven this debate on man-made climate change for too long with these scare stories and your green agenda.

 
  
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  Sabine Wils (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, since it became clear that the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy would each be preparing an own-initiative report, Parliament has been overrun by industry lobbyists. A whole string of shale gas events has been held since then here in this House, month after month, by the gas production companies – and with the active support of both conservative and liberal Members.

There was only a single event here that was not organised by the disciples of fracking among us. This dominance of one-sided lobbying by financially powerful corporations should give us food for thought. It is unacceptable.

This perversion is particularly apparent when it comes to the subject of fracking. Companies want to protect their income; risks are played down and swept aside. Accidents are ruled out. Apparently we need shale gas for the energy transition. We are told the impact on the landscape will also be minimal, and so on. No, all this cannot hide the fact that fracking involves incalculable risks, is superfluous and only serves the profit interests of a small number of gas monopolists.

I therefore ask you to vote in favour of Amendment 4, in which the Member States are called upon not to approve any more fracking activities.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE), blue-card question. – I have listened to this debate and in the interest of fairness perhaps you will pass on my email address to all of those lobbyists from industry who have lobbied you, because I am on the Environment Committee and I have not received any of that. I have, on the other hand, received a great deal of lobbying from people who are very concerned about fracking and I take on board their concerns, but I do think you do a disservice to this debate by making the suggestion, first of all, that we can be influenced unduly by any lobbyist and, secondly, that it has all been in one direction. There is a question in there somewhere, Mr President.

 
  
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  Sabine Wils (GUE/NGL), blue-card answer. – (DE) Mr President, I believe these lobbyists are holding this event to influence us MEPs. This event outside Parliament today, before tomorrow’s vote, is particularly blatant. I think that most people will also be unable to escape the arguments being made there, as they are supposedly objective arguments. Nevertheless, I do not wish to imply that of anyone. I find it striking, however, that the industry thinks it can make an impression here with its arguments. Yet certain statements that we are hearing are actually influenced by them. That is why I do not think it a good thing that we are allowed to be overrun by lobbyists in such a way here in Parliament.

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, this is an appeal to you – if I may ask – because once again, despite Ms Tzavela’s requests, we are hearing arguments from the left to the effect that the views of this side of the House are the result of lobbying actions. I strongly entreat you, Mr President, to put a stop to expressions of this type, because this really is offensive to us all. I urge you to intervene, to remove from them all the right to speak, and to make use of whatever powers you possess. The reason is that this is ceasing to be a debate and starting to be no more than slander.

To those on the left I have a request: we really do differ, we simply have differing views, and I would ask you to get used to the fact that someone who has different views to yours just has those views, not because someone has bribed him into having them, but just because he has different views. I am directing my words to the representative of the Communist Party in particular.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer (ALDE), blue-card question to Sabine Wils. – (DE) Mr President, Ms Wils, my question is along exactly the same lines: what impression do you have of freely elected MEPs – to think that we are at the beck and call of industry interests, that we are not smart enough to form our own opinion and that we need exhibitions and lobbying before acting as stooges for some lobby or other? Why do you assume that Parliament is being overrun by the interests of lobbyists? Why do you not assume that there can be a fair and open debate on all issues, particularly in connection with the environment, climate and energy?

 
  
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  Sabine Wils (GUE/NGL), blue-card answer. (DE) Mr President, Mr Krahmer, to my mind an open debate involves a podium discussion to which both sides are invited, where opponents and advocates of fracking are both given the opportunity to speak. The majority of events that have been held here in Parliament, however, were not of this nature. As I said, just one event against fracking was held, involving a non-governmental organisation from the United States.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
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  Romana Jordan (PPE), blue-card question. – Mr President, I had the same question as my two colleagues. I would like to ask Mrs Wils if she really believes that we are so naïve that one exhibition organised next to the Chamber can change our minds. I would like to ask her what her arguments are before she decides.

 
  
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  Sabine Wils (GUE/NGL), blue-card answer. – (DE) Mr President, I do not think an exhibition can influence your opinion, any more than a conversation with a non-governmental organisation can change my opinion. Nevertheless, I do not consider it right that it is possible now, before this vote takes place in Parliament, for these lobbyists to be there right outside our door and go ahead with this event, which has already been touched upon several times here.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, perhaps shale gas is in fact the great future alternative when it comes to Europe’s energy independence. I really do hope so. On the other hand, amidst all the euphoria about the shale gas boom, we should not forget a number of facts in our current situation: Europe’s deposits cannot really be compared with those of the United States; they are deeper and would therefore cost more to extract. This was one of the reasons why, faced with costs of EUR 130 million, Österreichische Mineralölverwaltung (ÖMV) decided against test drilling in the wine-growing region of Lower Austria. Furthermore, the United States – unlike Europe – is able to extract the gas in sparsely populated regions. Luxembourg, for example, has shelved its shale gas plans for a densely populated area in Bettembourg. This is something else that we should not forget.

Apart from this, water is, of course, a precious commodity for us Europeans, in view of the increasing shortage. It probably does not make sense to invest billions in water conservation and then expose our groundwater to a potential contamination risk. Not forgetting the earthquake risk, which has already led to test drilling being halted in Blackpool, England.

I therefore believe, amidst all the euphoria and despite our hope that shale gas will turn out to be a major energy source and alternative for us Europeans, that we must come back down to earth and the facts. At the present time, shale gas extraction in Europe probably does not yet really make sense from economic and ecological perspectives and we must give careful consideration to how we conduct ourselves in this area.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, this debate now from this side of the House, which is getting worked up about the exhibition outside, is a bit hypocritical. Do you really think we are so stupid that an exhibition held outside will influence our voting behaviour? When exhibitions are held here, our Rules of Procedure apply, and anyone who wants to exhibit can apply to do so and must observe certain rules. What I find questionable is the dirty campaigning that is sometimes conducted by non-governmental organisations. This is questionable as it takes place on the quiet. People who cannot tolerate information events, however, should not be parliamentarians. This communication must be possible.

Regarding the general debate, I would like to note the following: we here in Europe are not the ones who decide what happens in the Member States. I am not keen on fracking and shale gas, as I also recognise the major concerns relating to environmental protection. However, it simply does not reflect reality for us to be acting as if we were able to ban it, as this is not possible under Article 194 of the Treaty. Our task should be to point out that there are problems and risks, and in particular to urge the European Commission to ensure that the environmental protection standards for which we are responsible are also observed. Then we must precisely examine what is happening in the individual Member States. If the groundwater or other environmental commodities are being put at risk, we must prompt the Commission to take the relevant Member States in hand. However, acting as if we were the ones to decide whether or not Poland extracts shale gas does not entirely reflect reality.

In addition, it is important to view the project from a long-term perspective. I also believe that the long-term costs far outweigh the short-term profits. For that reason I reject this technology, as various Member States do. However, ladies and gentlemen, let us please return to an objective debate and not act as though the world is falling apart because there is an exhibition outside!

(The speaker agreed to take two blue-card questions under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
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  Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE), blue-card question. – (DE) Mr President, why is this exhibition so unacceptable? Firstly, it is supposed to have been organised by the Citizens’ Initiative For Responsible Energy. We have made a few enquiries about that. Behind this organisation are three Polish energy companies, such as PGNIG and others. This means it is misleading; citizens are being pushed to the front so that commercial interests can be hidden behind them.

Secondly, this organisation is not included in the European Union’s Transparency Register. We must learn…

(Heckling)

My question to Mr Seeber: do you not think that here in Parliament we should only approve exhibitions by parties who are at least fair enough to say who is financing them, and who are at least listed in the European Union’s Transparency Register, which we implemented here in Parliament with a large majority?

 
  
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  Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE), blue-card question. – (FR) Mr President, I have a similar question. The problem with this exhibition is not that industrialists want to hold an exhibition. There’s no problem with that, but they must say that they are industrialists. When we have NGOS, they say they are NGOs. The problem here is the attempt to deceive us: we do not know who they really are, and when you scratch beneath the surface, as Mr Turmes said, you find out they are actually from the shale gas industry. That is what is not right and not the fact that lobbies can come to Parliament to try to influence people. There must be total transparency about who people are.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE), blue-card answers. – (DE) Mr President, I am not the one who approves these exhibitions. We have clear rules here on how such an exhibition can come about and these rules must be observed. What I do not understand, Mr Turmes and Ms Rivasi, is how, in such an important debate, so much time can be devoted to such a detail.

None of us here is responsible for this exhibition. Goodness knows I am also in favour of transparency, but this is the wrong audience. It is off the subject. Full stop! Bring it up with the administration and get worked up about it there, but we in here are not the ones who decide whether the exhibition should be taking place out there. I am also in favour of transparency, so where is the problem?

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, I would ask you to pay attention to the discussion culture! These are not questions, they are speeches. It is unfair to those MEPs who may still wish to speak on this important issue under the catch-the-eye procedure. If people prattle on about this and that and have no discipline, please intervene to ensure that it is at least fair for others!

 
  
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  Josefa Andrés Barea (S&D). - (ES) Mr President, the truth is that the public is concerned about what we are debating here today, and they are also concerned about what has been said about the lobbyists, but I would like to focus specifically on their interest in what we are going to vote on tomorrow.

There is controversy in the international situation. The Commissioner for the Environment rightly talked about uncertainty regarding the extraction of shale gas. It has been used in the US and the abundance of this type of extraction has been mentioned. However, in some countries a moratorium has been put in place, such as in Germany and also in France.

The questions in the scientific community and the contradictions within the European Union regarding the technical safety and the possible risks and dangers to the environment and human health mean that we should adopt a position on which there is as much consensus as possible, and with the participation of all the institutions, organisations and members of the public concerned.

Therefore, until there is a sufficient scientific and environmental guarantee and the application of precautionary principles and preventive action, we ask the Commission to establish a moratorium to begin with.

Secondly, you need to work together. You have expressed two completely different points of view. We need to know that we are not dealing with a threat, as the rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy said. We need to know if we have a guarantee. We also ask for the standardisation of the EU’s legislative criteria regarding the Member States and the regions, which are responsible for issuing permits and can sometimes cause significant damage to the environment.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE). - Mr President, I cannot recall any presiding officer who has ever ignored the timetable quite so effectively, but maybe that is the reason why we are having such a lively debate.

My country, Great Britain, was the world’s first industrial nation. To a significant extent, that was built on our exploitation of a natural resource – coal. We had coal mines everywhere in my part of the world. I look now to reducing our CO2 emissions and going for a non-carbon future, but throughout the 21st century we are going to be burning gas, to a greater or lesser extent. I would like at least to see that gas coming from within my own country, if that is possible, rather than bringing it in from the Middle East.

But of course there are risks and uncertainties associated with the development of shale gas. One that has been touched upon is the size of the potential seismic activity. In Lancashire, where there has been some exploratory drilling, Blackpool Tower has shaken. But I am also told when I look at the reports that actually the seismic activity is minimal compared to, say, coal mining.

There are other issues: the environmental concerns above all about water, both the injection into and the discharge of water, and the whole question of course-of-lifecycle analysis and the CO2 effects. I hope that the Commission will address all of these things when it comes forward with this report and I welcome that.

You can see this either as an opportunity or a threat. On the whole, I regard the development of shale gas as an opportunity, but please, environmentally at least, let us get it right.

 
  
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  Reinhard Bütikofer (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I think that this shale gas propaganda exhibition outside has already proved to be a wonderful own goal, by demonstrating how dishonestly these interest groups operate. I can only extend my congratulations.

As far as our debate is concerned, Mr Oettinger, you know, at least from Mr Potočnik, who is sitting next to you, how many questions remain unanswered and how many doubts cannot yet be dispelled. For this reason in particular we now need a precautionary regulatory framework to be put in place. I am criticising you because in the past, time and again, you have publicly allowed the impression to arise, and have actively encouraged the impression, that we can take our time over this.

I believe that what we urgently need is a moratorium, which we will use to create the regulatory framework within which the Member States, if they indeed wish to do so, must then make their decision. However, we should not waste this valuable time, and that is partly your responsibility Mr Oettinger!

It is my opinion that the hopes being placed in shale gas are grossly exaggerated. With regard to energy independence, even if we stick to the fossil fuel path, according to the Commission’s figures we would still have to import 60 % of our gas from Russia, Norway or elsewhere in 30 years’ time. Independence? You must be joking! Partner in the energy transition? Not a chance! Take a look at the United States! Shale gas development is not a partner in the energy transition, but a rejection of the energy transition. The IEA, the International Energy Agency, has said that shale gas development is not compatible with a 2 °C target. Just a few days ago it said we must leave at least two thirds of the fossil fuels still in the ground where they are to ensure that we have any chance of keeping climate change within bounds. In this situation relying on the development of new fossil fuels is irresponsible, Mr Oettinger!

My last comment is for Ms Tzavela as rapporteur. You have attempted very charmingly to get us on board with the advocates. Unfortunately, we cannot follow you; the differences are too great.

 
  
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  Paweł Robert Kowal (ECR).(PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there is one thing that must be said: we are reading this report and listening to today’s debates with resentment. This is because it has turned out that something which has been welcomed as a great opportunity by many of Europe’s nations appears to you as nothing more than a threat. Do you know where the oldest oil well in Europe is located? In Siary, near Gorlice. It was dug by hand in 1852, when Poland was partitioned. Can you imagine what we will have to say in Poland, and what Members from the UK and from other countries will say, back in their home countries, when they return? That the free nations of the European Union, despite the provisions of the Treaty – since that Treaty guarantees us the right – wish to prohibit the extraction of shale gas? That they wish to take away a great opportunity from nations? What kind of sense is that supposed to make? When we talk about needing greater integration, when we say: let us be like the United States, when we see that in the United States shale gas is extracted without any overarching regulation, and each state does it, then we say: no, let us not be like the United States, let us be like Europe! But that Europe must be free, it must respect the right to take free economic decisions, especially when they are very restrictive on environmental matters. Those are the sort of regulations that apply in Poland and in many EU countries. I am disillusioned with this report and I draw the conclusion from it that it is not worth entering into such debates.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, what concerns me is that I do not think we are the ones being irresponsible by being in favour of the extraction of something that could make Europe self-sufficient in terms of fossil fuels; it is the Greens criticising this stance who are irresponsible because they are fine about keeping themselves warm – obviously I do not think they stay cold – with the same or similar products imported from third countries where mining and drilling is done at the risk of causing earthquakes. You see, if you take oil or gas out from under the ground you create the same voids that are formed by extracting shale gas.

So this is fine for other countries but it should not happen in Europe. We have to spend taxpayers’ money paying for stuff from third countries when we could – this is only a possibility – we could be self-sufficient with stuff we produce in Europe. At this point something does not make sense to me and I start to wonder whether the Greens have some other hidden agenda. I will close by saying that I really think caring for the environment is important, but I do not think we should miss this opportunity to extract something that could make Europe economically self-sufficient from the point of view of oil and gas extraction.

 
  
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  Martina Anderson (GUE/NGL). - Mr President, I urge Member States not to authorise any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU.

It is clear from past experience in countries such as America and from studies that fracturing does pose unacceptable risks to the environment, to public health and to local constituents. This comes at a time when really we should instead be investing in renewables such as wave and wind, of which we have a lot in Ireland.

Research shows and governments have had to admit, like the government in Poland, that companies and governments almost always nearly overestimate shale gas deposits in order to support their actions. Notwithstanding the environmental impact caused by emissions created by fracturing, the considerable amount of constituency concern is entirely understandable given the very real risk posed by fracking to both agriculture and tourism in places of beauty like Fermanagh.

So these two sectors are vitally important to the Irish economy and given its current fragile state it is absolutely baffling that corporate interest should outweigh the interests of the citizen.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE).(FR) Mr President, we are having a passionate debate today on a particularly sensitive issue.

I would like to come back to the two reports we are discussing and to congratulate the two rapporteurs, Mr Sonik and Ms Tzavela, for the very balanced and realistic approach they have taken on the subject of shale gas exploitation. I support them for that reason and others.

The first reason is the cost of energy and competitiveness. We are going through a serious economic crisis; many people are worried about the rise in energy prices and we know that energy bills are key to keeping our businesses competitive. On this issue, the United States is a telling example.

The second reason is energy independence and diversification. The focus should be on research into more environmentally friendly extraction technologies and strict adherence to safety conditions for the experimentation, exploration and exploitation of shale gas. I am concerned by the lack of faith in scientific and technological progress – which gives rise to innovation, entrepreneurship and a culture of taking risks – which has without doubt contributed to the loss of industry in Europe. We need to know more before we rule out shale gas definitively. In the long term we cannot and should not ignore the huge underground reserves in Europe and the opportunities that shale gas offers.

As a result, I am not convinced by the idea of a moratorium. I would like to see Member States being able to take advantage of this opportunity if they wish to, but only by respecting the principle of subsidiarity and within a strict regulatory framework that respects the environment, water resources and safety.

This means we need genuine regulation. If we use the results of the studies authorised by the Commission as a starting point for the debate I am convinced that we will be able to create a robust legal framework.

 
  
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  Matthias Groote (S&D).(DE) Mr President, the timing of today’s session leaves something to be desired. I have never experienced us being over an hour late before. In this regard, blue cards should indeed be used freely, but should also not be misused.

With regard to fracking, the debate reminds me a little of that relating to nuclear power – yes or no. I must say, however, that just because something is technically possible, that does not mean it has to be done. The protection of health and the environment must therefore take absolute priority over any immature technologies, and that is what I see when it comes to fracking. My greatest reservations concern the impact on the environment.

What we are lacking is a sensible regulatory framework. We have various policy areas: Member States are responsible for the energy mix, but we are responsible for environmental policy. We have gaps in the water framework legislation. We have no mining law. I believe it is appropriate and timely for the Commission to think about how we can close these gaps, to create legal certainty and to ensure maximum protection for health and the environment. This – as I see it, anyway – is not the case with regard to fracking! A potential energy supply of the future cannot, however, be created at the cost of the environment or health. Furthermore, if you look at how many accidents and risks there are in the United States with the 50 000 existing well-bores, I must say that we should give careful consideration to how we get involved in this technology and what the protective framework for this future technology should be.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Groote, there is no technology without risks! The perfect energy generation technology does not exist. I believe the same applies to what we are discussing here today. I am very much in favour of a rational discussion. What we are currently experiencing is a new arrival on the energy markets in the form of unconventional resources, applying mainly to gas, but also to oil. It is neither appropriate to get carried away with euphoria about the great future of gas, nor, as some of my colleagues from the Greens and Left have done here, to paint a picture of terrifying scenarios which bear absolutely no resemblance to reality. I think we should bear in mind that these unconventional resources have the potential to change all the familiar energy supply relationships between suppliers and consumers, and that economic efficiency calculations for existing energy sources are also called into question. We should face up to this development. We should acknowledge that it could also be an opportunity for Europe and not only a risk, and we should prepare ourselves to take up and use new technologies in a positive way, to weigh up opportunities and risks fairly and not to fall into ideological debates.

 
  
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  José Bové (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, nobody has mentioned this yet, but something important happened on Sunday when the World Bank published its report and announced that the Earth will be more than four degrees warmer by 2060.

Given that it is the World Bank saying this, I think it is safe to say that the situation is very serious. It means in practical terms that if we want to prevent this from occurring, we need to go from 35 billion cubic metres of CO2 in 2050 to 10 billion. This requires very strict measures, not simply just to lower our emissions but to actually reduce them by a third or a half. This means that when we are dealing with this European and global issue today, we cannot simply chase after easily available energy sources if we want to avoid the effects of global warming.

I say this because today everybody knows that methane has an effect on global warming 30 times greater than that of CO2, and between 4 to 8 % of methane escapes between the wells and the pipes when extracting shale gas. This applies to all forms of methane, obviously. It is therefore a key issue.

Finally, to give an example showing the need for European regulation, I went to visit a shale gas well near Wrocław in Poland operated by Halliburton. There was nothing to capture the water. Fracking had occurred and the water had just been released into the environment. That is why we need proper legislation and a moratorium while it goes through.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR). - Mr President, we have heard in this debate today how the Greens are against nuclear power because of a 9.2 Richter scale earthquake in Japan and consequent tsunami; they are against shale gas because of a 1.2 Richter scale earthquake in Blackpool which is about the same you would get if you slam a door hard, and instead they are in favour of the green agenda which is covering my country, Scotland, with gigantic industrial wind turbines, driving over a million Scots into actual fuel poverty, wrecking the countryside and not reducing CO2 emissions by a single gram.

Now we know in America from the full exploitation of shale gas that they have dramatically reduced their emissions. They have driven down the cost of gas by 30 % and I can see clearly now why the Greens are against this. Because if we exploit our massive shale gas reserves in Europe, no-one will ever again build another wind turbine and that would run right against Green philosophy.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (EFD). - Mr President, America’s industrial competitiveness has been transformed by shale gas. America is now very close to self-sufficiency in energy and, incidentally, is likely to be the world’s largest oil producer by 2020. We were told that fossil fuels would become scarcer and more expensive. What we are finding is that they are becoming more abundant and are likely, in time, to become cheaper.

Yet we in Europe have turned our back on fossil fuels and gone instead for renewables, which are hopelessly expensive and unreliable. We are undermining our industrial competitiveness. We are driving energy-intensive businesses out of Europe entirely, and they are taking their jobs and investment with them. We are driving our pensioners into fuel poverty. We are mortgaging our children and bankrupting our grandchildren. Our energy policy is sheer lunacy and must be abandoned. European energy policy is yet another reason why my country would be better off out of the European Union.

 
  
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  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL). (CS) Mr President, I am not a member of the ‘green inquisition’, to which Mr Březina alluded earlier; far from it. However, I would still like to ask the Commissioners a few questions about hydraulic fracturing. First, whether the Commission is taking into account the fact that in Europe, particularly Central Europe, we have a different geological structure than in the United States. Here it is the exception to have a fixed plate with a homogeneous layer above it, in which extraction is possible. Secondly, I would like to ask whether the Commission is concerned with the impact on the groundwater and the stability of the water supply. This is the reason why in my country, the Czech Republic, the STOP HF initiative has emerged and, thanks to this sense of threat to the stability of water supply, there are currently almost half a million subscribers to this initiative. I would also like to ask how the United States is coping with the issue of the rapid depletion of deposits. It turned out that when President Obama promised stability of energy supply for 100 years, he was wrong. The last question concerns the negative impact on the landscape. The area of eastern and north-eastern Bohemia, where there are said to be mineable deposits, is only 777 km² in size and one thousand wells are due to be constructed there.

 
  
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  Peter Liese (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to speak in particular about the Sonik report. I would like to thank Mr Sonik for his work! His report was approved almost unanimously in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety by 63 votes to 1. The report contains two main messages: firstly, subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that, as Europeans, we cannot ban Poland from using this new form of energy. It is very clear that Poland would like to make use of it and, under the Treaties, we do not have the responsibility to prohibit this. Conversely, the European Union should not put countries that do not wish to use this technology under even the slightest pressure to do so. The national and regional moratoriums are also mentioned explicitly in the report and are acknowledged. What this also means – and the Sonik report is clear on this point – is that we will not be using joint European funds for this technology.

In my region I am experiencing considerable opposition, and not only from the Left and Greens. All local councils and the district assembly have said with a large majority, including the Christian Democratic Union, that they do not want this technology here. This is certainly linked to the fact that our region is very densely populated – Commissioner Oettinger made reference to this. In an area covering 1 960 m2 we have more than 200 water catchment areas. It is therefore certainly understandable that people are worried about their drinking water.

The Sonik report also states that, where cross-border effects can be expected and are giving cause for concern, we need common European rules, and I ask the Commission also to tackle this as a matter of urgency. In particular, we should not make use of this technology in drinking water catchment areas. Otherwise, however, the principle of subsidiarity applies.

 
  
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  Kriton Arsenis (S&D). - (EL). Mr President, we are discussing the rules and specifications for this particular type of extraction, but we should not forget that these rules and specifications must also be complied with. As other fellow Members have done, I would like to roundly condemn the ‘trade in hope’ which has arisen over these possible reserves. We are talking specifically about reserves of natural gas.

Similar discussions are taking place here, in the countries of my fellow Members and in my country, Greece, on the subject of oil. If we knew where these deposits are, and how many there are, we would not need to prospect for them. However, it seems that some people want to cheat the unemployed, whose numbers are steadily growing in our countries, and deceive the public, by holding out the hope of a future paradise instead of offering real solutions to unemployment. I call for an end, here and now, to this demagogy and ‘selling of hope’. We must tell the truth to our fellow citizens. It is a myth, this talk of cheap natural gas for the public, and the same goes for the discussions on oil.

The price of oil is decided on the international stock markets. Natural gas is linked to that price. The price of both is steadily rising. Real energy independence is independence from carbon.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, I would like to start, as is customary, but easily forgotten, by thanking our two rapporteurs. We have not done that so far due to the heated and controversial nature of the debate we have been having.

Shale gas has done the US economy a world of good and in seven years, it has gone from being an importer to a potential exporter of natural gas. Manna from Heaven, perhaps, but also controversial. I am not going to repeat everything that has already been said but talk about the possible risk of failing to invest in research into renewables and by doing so letting the fight against climate change grind to a halt.

The EU has to take a realistic approach that is both open-minded and cautious. We cannot write the petroleum industry a blank cheque, nor should we hamper future progress and innovation. If we are to learn from the United States then we must ensure we do not make the same mistakes, particularly the environmental cost of fracking, which is far too high, and the issue of water, which has already been raised. We also have to take into account the reality in Europe, which is that it has a high population density and a multitude of different laws governing the subsoil.

In other words – I am coming to the end, Mr President, we are already an hour behind, let me have 10 more seconds please – shale gas can only ever be, perhaps, something to add to the European energy mix, as Commissioner Oettinger has said.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (ECR).(PL) Mr President, the need for diversification of energy sources means that we cannot neglect such a significant raw material source as shale gas. When a number of Member States are heavily dependent on supplies, especially from Russia, documented native deposits of shales become real natural riches. Intensive studies and targeted exploitation of this fuel are in the interests of the whole of the Union. For Poland, which estimates its shale reserves on average at more than half a billion cubic metres, investment in this sector is a chance to gain independence in energy policy and measurable financial benefits. This is why the Polish Government is giving priority to shales when looking at power generation.

The stance taken by some Members, who want to impose a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracking in Europe, is consequently all the more of a concern. Such actions are in breach of the Treaties, extremely unjustified, damaging, and, looking further ahead, detrimental to the citizens of Member States.

I agree with Mr Sonik’s argument that we cannot afford not to make use of our own power generation sources. The example of the United States shows how rapidly and significantly shale exploitation has been translated into gas prices, which have seen a major reduction. This has an obvious impact on the competitiveness of US industry and must not be allowed to harm our own home-grown industry.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD).(LT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, from one side we are being told that shale gas could cause an energy revolution because its reserves are large enough and essential to our economic needs. From the other side we hear that its extraction has not been researched sufficiently and that it could endanger public health and harm both current and future generations. Indeed, the information is too contradictory and using only good or bad examples from the United States causes too many doubts.

Until we are completely sure that this technology is safe enough and that it will not cause especially large and painful ecological catastrophes, we are in my opinion being too bold in discussing the extraction of this gas in Europe.

I would support research into the opportunities to extract shale gas without negative effects on the environment. This would be a primary task for European scientists and I believe that it is a task that they are able to tackle.

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE).(HU) Mr President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, in the United States in recent years, gas produced using unconventional technologies has radically transformed the energy market. That is a fact. Thanks to alternative sources of gas accounting for more than half of production, gas prices have slumped in the United States and they no longer have to rely on imports, as many have already pointed out in this debate. In the midst of the current protracted crisis, Europe can no longer allow itself the luxury of failing to deliberate thoroughly on such an opportunity, naturally adopting a responsible approach to evaluating the pros and cons. This is why I would like to emphasise a couple of aspects which can help us to form a balanced opinion on this topic.

What does shale gas mean in terms of security of supply, competitiveness and environmental protection? Let us look at security of supply first of all. By exploiting alternative sources of gas, the Union could reduce its gas supply vulnerability. Thanks to these new resources Europe would not only be able to counterbalance the dwindling traditional gas reserves in the North Sea, but also to reduce the unilateral energy dependence of certain Member States. Secondly, competitiveness. As the situation in the United States shows, the spread of alternative gas reserves can lead to lower prices since it increases competition on the gas market and improves the negotiating position of consumers against large-scale gas suppliers. In this way, the new reserves can improve Europe’s industrial competitiveness and reduce the burdens on populations. Finally, let us look at environmental protection. This is perhaps the most complex area. On the one hand, since gas is one of the cleanest fuels we have, exploiting alternative gas reserves could provide a suitable intermediary solution for switching to energy production with low carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, however, this must be properly regulated and efficiently monitored so that the companies involved in extraction adhere to the most stringent environmental regulations.

 
  
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  Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D).(NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is a long debate, but I fear that unfortunately that is not a guarantee of a good debate. The essential question before us is not who is influenced by which lobbyist but ‘what is the future of shale gas within the global context of the energy debate?’. For that reason there are two Commissioners before us who must guide us in this matter and also try to provide us with a solution.

First of all: within the European Union we must determine very quickly what the long-term strategy is in the field of energy. Let us be clear about this – in any case with regard to the options as far as my group is concerned – and I believe as far as several groups in this Parliament are concerned. If we consider this matter in the long term, then around 2050 we shall have to ensure that we have a completely renewable energy system – and, yes, gas will form an important part of it. The question is: what sort of gas and under what conditions?

Then the other Commissioner, Mr Potočnik, comes into the picture because he must ensure – regardless of all the emotion within this Chamber – that if we ever switch over to the full development of shale gas – I do have questions about that and I am also sceptical about it – but if we do, then it will happen within a strict regulatory framework that takes into consideration the impact on our environment and the impact on our climate. Let us now wait a bit and let our emotions calm down a little and ensure that the European framework is tight and sound, as we have done in the past. As far as I am concerned, that is the future regarding energy and the environment if we are talking about this subject.

 
  
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  Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE).(BG) Mr President, shale gas extraction may contribute to the energy security of Europe but it will not provide the solution to Europe’s energy problems. The potential economic and industrial benefits from shale gas should be evaluated together with the estimated costs and risks to human health and the environment in both the short and longer term. If managed properly, these risks can be minimised, but we must ensure that we have a clear and stable programme for responsible industrial growth in Europe. Europe needs an objective scientific debate on the economic, environmental and social potential of shale gas development on the continent. I would therefore like to congratulate my fellow rapporteurs on their initiative in raising this discussion and I hope that together we can develop a winning common strategy for Europe.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (ECR). - Mr President, meeting the growing demand for energy is a major dilemma facing policymakers and governments around the world. Long-term strategic decisions may need to be taken to secure energy supply, ensure sustainability and keep costs to consumers at reasonable levels.

While we have discussed biofuels and renewables at length, shale gas reserves are now on the agenda. The exploration of shale gas reserves may provide another possible solution to the energy challenges which we face. Onshore and offshore reserves of shale gas have been identified as being safe in the United Kingdom, including in my own region of Northern Ireland.

While I am aware that this is a controversial issue, I believe we must strip away emotive arguments and look at the issue in an open and transparent way by concentrating on the facts. We must assess the impact of extraction and possible benefits for energy security, energy prices and employment alongside the possible environmental and safety concerns, human and animal health implications and the impact on tourism. We require a balanced approach.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan (PPE).(SL) Mr President, much has already been said today about the positive and negative aspects of shale gas extraction.

At a time when our economy is still quite weak, we must be all the more open to new ideas and be able to exploit them as opportunities. Shale gas is just one such new idea. Sensible exploitation of this unconventional source of gas can help us reduce our import dependency, as well as create new jobs.

Permit me to just shed some light on the aspect of reliable energy supply. In 2010 Europe imported 52.7 % of all its energy. According to Eurostat data, in the same year we imported 63.5 % of our gas, with our import dependency on Russia increasing by 5.6 %. In that year some Member States even became more than 90 % dependent on foreign gas imports. We are of course increasing our share of renewable sources, but we also know that the most appropriate back-up energy source is gas.

We have heard mention several times today of the United States and in fact the veritable energy revolution taking place there. Exploiting a relatively new source of energy can also be turned into a research and innovation opportunity. Why could we in Europe not become the leaders in developing techniques for shale gas extraction using less water, without chemicals, and with more efficient recycling and increased safety, or rather less risk of environmental pollution?

Concern for a reliable energy supply and high environmental standards would form the basis for new jobs for highly qualified young people, who in the current conditions are all too often finding opportunities beyond the borders of the European Union.

Let us not say no, then; let us rather seize this opportunity for development and let us export high environmental standards.

 
  
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  Marita Ulvskog (S&D).(SV) Mr President, the arguments against shale gas are very strong. Much has been said about the method of extraction, and I will not repeat this; however, it is quite alarming.

Another important argument is that gas is a fossil fuel. Therefore, we would be making a fixed investment in another fossil energy source instead of developing renewable energy. We must also bear this in mind.

As Mr Arsenis pointed out just now, the utopia of endless cheap gas in a market that would consequently not function is nothing more than a dream.

What we as MEPs must do is respect each country’s right to determine its energy sources; however, we must also assert a precautionary principle. We must assert the ‘polluter pays’ principle; we must assert sustainability in the long term, and this must be decisive in how we vote tomorrow.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE).(NL) Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteurs for their proposals because they have led to a terrific, lively political discussion. We are now talking about the future of our energy supplies and it appears very necessary that we create an internal market for energy in which a ring system is built for electricity and gas, so that our dependence on foreign countries decreases.

We are now also dealing with alternative types of energy and I believe that we must have a strict statutory framework in order to guarantee safe and secure use, through which neither people nor nature are damaged by new types of energy. I also think that no single alternative should be rejected in advance, and that also applies to shale gas.

I believe that the technologies currently practised, which are clearly damaging to people or the environment, must improve, but we must certainly not rule anything out. I also feel that we must proceed in a sensible manner with the research.

 
  
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  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I shall not prevaricate – shales provide new jobs, they are safe, they are ecological, and they lower energy costs and diversify the supply of that energy to Europe, and this is something that matters a lot for some countries. I am in a position to appreciate that you do not understand this. I am saying this to the left side of the Chamber. After all, I could have spoken and made use of the method you have used against us: you pretend not to understand, you pretend that these arguments do not get through to you, that you are in the pocket of Gazprom, that you are at the beck and call of the French nuclear industry, that you are lackeys to those who make wind turbines in Germany. I could speak like that, but I am not going to. This is because I think that you have a right to your views. I think that you have a right to your views, even though they are wrong. I would like to express the wish that you come to see that shales are good for everyone. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE).(NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am not going to repeat what has already been said by many Members. We have noted very many sensible things, proposals and comments here. For example, from Mr Seeber, who said that we must not continue to harbour the illusion that as the European Parliament we can prevent the development of shale gas. Some Members would gladly do that but we will not be able to do so.

For that reason, ladies and gentlemen, we must of course make every effort to ensure the sound framework of this development. We know the great potential of shale gas, particularly in the United States. It is already very clearly proven what its effects can be. Let us, then, choose a framework for the smooth implementation of the EU legislation. Let us ensure that nowhere in Europe will chemicals be used for shale gas that do not come under the REACH legislation.

Mr President, naturally shale gas is useful to reduce our dependence on foreign energy suppliers from outside the EU. Commissioner Oettinger has rightly stated that this is an important aspect. However, this will of course not relieve us of the obligation to continue to deploy renewable energy and especially, Commissioner, as you have said, to implement energy efficiency. Even the availability of shale gas in the future must therefore not lull us into a false sense of security and prevent us from taking further action to achieve energy efficiency.

To sum up, Mr President, we must go for a well-balanced, bold, but also careful approach with clear rules of the game that must be agreed at European level and all Member States must draw up an environmental impact assessment for any EU project.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (S&D).(FR) Mr President, this debate illustrates perfectly the intellectual blocks that dominate Europe. As soon as a new technology develops, be it biotechnology, nanotechnology or now non-conventional energy, Europeans tear each other apart on the possible risks posed by these technologies, while the rest of the world seizes the new opportunities they offer.

The members of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance are against shale gas. It is their right. Nevertheless, they do not have the right to prevent others from speaking in favour of this energy, whether this be through an exhibition such as the one that the green censors wish to ban. If you speak in favour of shale gas, you are accused of being an industrial lobbyist. Of course industrialists in the solar and wind energy sector who come to beg for more subsidies are not lobbyists.

Shale gas exploitation will progress not only in the United States and Canada, but also in Australia, China and various countries of the developing world. According to the international energy agency, shale gas will become an essential element of the world energy mix. Its exploitation will progress, with or without Europe. I hope that Europe will not cut itself off from this indisputable source of energy.

 
  
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  Graham Watson (ALDE). - Mr President, of course we need to reduce our dangerous levels of energy dependence on Russia, but the extraction of shale gas requires millions of litres of water and chemicals, it threatens already scarce water supplies with contamination and it risks geological fracturing which can lead to earthquakes such as those we saw in Blackpool in the United Kingdom.

I welcome the Sonik and Tzavela reports, but I have in my constituency an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Mendip Hills, where there are plans to exploit shale gas. This is simply not needed. We have green, clean energy everywhere. While we will, in some countries, to some extent, no doubt develop shale gas, we can invest now in alternative technologies that can provide for almost all of our energy needs.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITTELLA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Andrzej Grzyb (PPE), blue-card question to Graham Watson. – (PL) Mr President, Mr Watson, I would like to ask you whether you know of any activity associated with the acquisition of energy that does not alter anything in the environment. I know many places where the siting of windmills as renewable energy sources is a cause of public protest. Do you think that the extraction of conventional gas does not affect the environment? Does the extraction of coal, for example, affect the environment? It does. Does the acquisition of energy from solar systems, for example, not have an impact on the environment, given that we have to make use of numerous rare earth elements in it?

Not long ago we had a debate – in which Mr Bütikofer took the floor – about how Europe is poor in many rare earth elements that are needed for modern technologies. These elements do not come from the Moon, though; they are simply dug up out of the ground. When we were looking at that report, we wondered whether we should change certain regulations in that case too, to enable benefit to be gained now from these elements at the locations where they are to be found, through an amendment to, for example, the scope of Natura 2000.

 
  
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  Graham Watson (ALDE), blue-card answer. – Mr President, the honourable gentleman is quite right to point to the fact that there are protests against all kinds of energy development. I am very much aware of that. However, I am sure the honourable gentleman would also recognise that scientists are telling us that climate change is having greater effects than they were predicting even five years ago.

The more we use fossil fuels, the more we will be adding to man-made climate change, and the more we will see rising sea levels and other effects. What is essential is to cut down on the use of fossil fuels. While shale gas is cleaner in these terms than coal, it is far less clean than the kind of alternative technologies which already exist and which, with a little more investment, could be developed just as effectively to supply our energy needs.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR), blue-card question. – Mr President, Mr Watson was talking about the dangerous chemicals used in fracking, but is he aware that those chemicals actually contain salt, soapy water and citric acid – basically washing-up liquid and lemon juice – as their major component?

I would like to ask Mr Watson, since he mentions that the beautiful Mendip Hills are in his area, whether the small construction involved with shale gas exploitation would be as bad as gigantic steel industrial wind turbines, which is the alternative that he seems to be alluding to?

 
  
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  Graham Watson (ALDE), blue-card answer. – Mr President, the honourable Member may wish to run the risk of having salt, or soapy water, or citric acid in his drinking water supplies. I do not wish to run that risk or to have these things in the drinking water supplies of my constituents.

I think by comparison and, indeed, by the comparison of the number of jobs – local jobs – that we can create in the construction of things like wind turbines and the long-term, cheaper energy supplies that we can develop from these – energy supplies which will never run out – then the economics suggest that shale gas is not the way forward.

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE).(PL) Mr President, today’s debate on the potential use of shale gas is directed at the European citizen. Before the Commission’s proposal, the European Parliament is today presenting its own position. The worst thing, though, is that in this debate those in favour and those against are refusing to listen to one another. The initiatives raised in the European Parliament, such as the round table on shale gas, hearings and conferences, have helped to increase knowledge, but have not led to any convergence of positions. Meanwhile all shale gas is the same ordinary natural gas that we use on a daily basis in our homes and at our companies, while the prospecting technology hardly differs at all from prospecting for geothermal sources. It is my belief that the doubts relating to the potential for contamination of groundwater that accompanies the development of shale gas extraction, and to any leakage from wells, which are treated in the industry as disasters, may be resolved by adopting best practices where well drilling is concerned and further discussion of the merits. Care in the handling of raw materials is a duty that the state has to society. In Poland we have exorbitantly cranked-up environmental standards that are far higher than those in effect in the United States. There are clearly a number of planes on which things could be improved. One of these is dialogue with local communities, but this is a communications-related deficit, not a regulatory one.

The prospects for gas production in Europe are different from those in the United States. Therefore no one is promising today that shale gas will completely liberate Europe from imports. Suffice it to say, though, that it will stabilise those imports and enable the dwindling supply of gas from conventional deposits to be replaced. The mere possession of natural gas reserves does not guarantee an economic leap forward. That will be decided by, on the one hand, the amount of economically viable gas extracted and, on the other, the efficiency with which knowledge is taken on board and the development of European extraction technologies. Potential access to our own power-generating raw material is an unusual opportunity facing the European economy, and one which should be an element that brings European public opinion together. Thank you.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, if you follow the discussion here, you could almost get the impression that we want one thing, but not the other. This shale gas extraction by no means excludes the development of other energy generation methods; we can still continue with these. We simply need to realise that our energy consumption will increase over the coming years and that we must exploit and examine all possibilities that are technologically available to enable us to meet our needs. This is an essential basis for our work.

In view of these facts – that is, that we will be faced with a rise in energy consumption over the coming years – what I am seeing is that a technology which could have the potential to expand our energy mix – for that is the basis here – and increase our security of supply is being condemned with excessive haste from the outset.

I believe that, besides reliable studies on the possibility and any risks of shale gas extraction, we need a more objective, less emotionally driven debate. It must also be stressed that as yet there are no studies that indicate that there has been any detrimental effect on the health of the population or that the groundwater has been contaminated. I therefore believe that a moratorium is the wrong course of action.

In addition, here in Europe we have legislation that is the strictest in the world. We have a Water Framework Directive, we have a clear message on environmental pollution, and so on. These rules apply precisely to this technology and it is therefore taking things rather far to immediately condemn this technology and describe it as extremely dangerous.

Anyone who looks into the technology and really examines what goes on will be surprised at how cleanly this technology is actually run and what impacts there may be for the environment. Nevertheless, I would also say that we cannot compare our situation with that in the United States and Canada. We have a completely different land mass and the way our population is distributed is completely different. This means, firstly, that it is essential that the public is involved and, secondly, that we must of course pay particular attention to the impacts in this area.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking today about an important issue of the future in the area of energy. We know that shale gas involves drilling and that drilling is of course also employed in connection with the use of geothermal energy. In this respect shale gas is also an enabling technology for future geothermal projects. I believe that in the future, while observing all environmental standards, we will be able to guarantee an additional, long-term strategic supply of geothermal energy, from precisely the depths at which work is currently taking place with shale gas. It will then be possible to use this energy source very sustainably for generations.

When it comes to the environment, attention must be given to ensuring that gas that comes to Europe via pipelines is also given a green certificate – that checks are also performed in relation to this gas to ascertain whether the same technological standards and environmental standards apply in countries outside of Europe. Only when this is guaranteed can this gas be placed on an equal footing with renewable energy sources.

We should also investigate the life cycle costs of the various methods of energy generation, that is to say the costs for environmental and social aspects, and any associated costs. Employment is also important. We currently have very high employment rates in the countries which supply energy to Europe – something I consider to be very positive – and the value added in these countries is also high. We should not forget, however, that new jobs need to be created in Europe too and that the conditions for this could exist in the energy industry. Particularly with regard to the long-term contracts that we have in the area of gas, prices are not such that we would be able to make more affordable energy available to domestic consumers, which is also why the comparison of prices for the domestic market, with security of supply and affordability in mind, is an extremely important socio-political factor.

 
  
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  Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE).(LT) Mr President, a few years ago shale gas was seen as exotic in Europe. Today the whole world is talking about shale gas extraction as a technology that could change the global energy balance.

Today in the European Parliament we are considering two aspects of shale gas extraction, namely the economic and environmental aspects. In my opinion, both of these sides need to be responsibly weighed up. I believe that the current situation is unacceptable because, first of all, some countries prohibit even shale gas exploration, citing an unjustified fear of ecological catastrophes. Secondly, these activities are almost completely unregulated. Environmental regulation is certainly inadequate.

The potential effects in Europe have not even been fully researched. For these reasons, I agree with the provisions of the European Parliament that it is essential to carry out more in-depth research into the effects on the environment and prepare the most effective response. Such research should be carried out continually before, during and after extraction procedures. Experience and practice should be constantly reviewed along with research data, and, in cases where it is believed that certain legal measures are needed, there should be an appropriate response.

We should also review the provisions regulating consultation with society. On the other hand, shale gas extraction should not become an industry that is subject to exclusive regulation. I am certain that it is not necessary to draw up new administrative rules that would place a burden on businesses in the form of disproportionate and unnecessary requirements and limitations.

In my country there are many people who claim that even renewable energy is not environmentally friendly and is a source of various problems, and I believe that there is no human activity that would not affect the environment in one way or another. However, in any case, I believe that shale gas is a path to energy independence and energy source diversification.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a very important question that we must answer is: how can we generate environmentally friendly energy at affordable prices and become independent from energy supplies from third countries? If we want an honest answer to this, we cannot condemn any technology out of hand; instead we must investigate without prejudice whether this technology is feasible or not.

Our energy potential in the European Union must be exploited optimally. This means having an energy mix and that is what our long-term energy policy must be. In some regions the wind offers us a source of energy, while in the south it is more the sun. In some regions we can cultivate biofuels, in others we can mine coal, and in some Member States, the extraction of shale gas is considered to have potential.

Shale gas also has the potential to increase Europe’s energy security and reduce our dependence on imports. It goes without saying that we must not take any risks with the environment and health here. On the basis of the EU Treaties, the question of whether a Member State will exploit its shale gas deposits is a decision for the country in question.

Europe can, however, lay down environmental standards that must be observed if a country decides in favour of drilling. European environmental legislation sets clear framework conditions for this, which we emphasise and specify in more detail in our report. These include strict environmental impact assessments which must be carried out before each drilling operation. The extraction must have no negative effects on soil or water quality and consequently on the health of citizens.

Unlike my colleague from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Ms Rivasi, I believe in the effectiveness of our European Regulations and Directives. Participation by the public and local residents and a high level of transparency must be guaranteed. The highest safety standards and the best technologies available must be employed to avoid a situation in which, with this technology, we once again create contamination problems for tomorrow today.

 
  
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  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE).(PL) Mr President, it rarely happens that two committees draw up a report on the same subject, but it is good that this is the case, because we thus have and can take note of two different aspects of the same phenomenon – shale gas. I am also pleased that in the Commission – as the Commissioners remarked – several Commissioners will be addressing this subject, since in this way we shall give full account to ecological aspects and environmental aspects, as well as economic aspects, and aspects relating to security in Europe.

I am very much counting on the study-based reports that the Commission is preparing, as the degree of ignorance of the consequences of shale gas that I am hearing today is simply staggering. If the main argument of Members of the European Parliament is that they have seen the film ‘Gasland’ and have drawn various inferences from that, this seems to me to be very dangerous for our debate.

One thing that has bothered me about today’s debate is that one side is emphasising that they are concerned about health and care about human health, and that those who talk of benefit to the economy, and of jobs, do not care about health and do not care about the environment. What are these accusations based on? We also care about health, and about the environment too.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the Lublin area, in one of the two regions of Poland where shale gas is extracted or is planned to be extracted, I am carrying out public opinion surveys. This is because I do not want to talk about the interests of citizens, I just want to listen to what citizens have to say on this subject. I want to tell you that in Poland, 73 % of those questioned are in favour of shale gas, while in the Lublin area, a traditional, rural, eastern part of Poland, 93 % of those who live in that area are in favour. When asked: how would you react if they were to carry out extraction in your location (because naturally one may draw people’s attention to this), 56 % of Poles say: yes, I consent to the extraction of shale gas in my location. In the Lublin area, 73 % say that. Mr Watson, I can assure you that the Lublin area is a very scenic one, and that the people who live there do not get worked up so much about views, but about their jobs, their income and the development of the region. They care very much about that.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Mr President, the world’s energy requirements are constantly rising and it appears that Europe will remain among the regions that need to import the most energy. According to the International Energy Agency our energy imports are likely to rise by 40 % by 2030. The production of shale gas provides an opportunity to diversify our sources of gas supply even further and alleviate concerns regarding our dependence on imports. I think we have to make it possible to extract and utilise this energy source in a sustainable manner without jeopardising the quantity and quality of our potable water reserves. I believe that we need to provide more information and disseminate facts among the public so that everyone can understand, accept and trust this new technology. It is also important to mention that the production of unconventional fossil fuels represents a significant opportunity to stimulate the economy, boost employment and last but not least lend momentum to research activities, while in the medium to long term it will exert a positive influence in the fight against climate change.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think that this debate has headed in the wrong direction. Europe cannot afford to peg itself to some energy source on an ideological basis. We need renewable energy resources, nuclear energy, conventional and unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas, as well as new types of energy such as the methanol economy proposed by US scientist and Nobel Prize winner George Olah. Iceland is the only country in Europe to have one. China accounts for half of the global production of methanol energy. In my country, Hungary, there are four significant and promising gas fields. As a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety I also believe it is very important to comply with environmental criteria. I think this is a crucial issue but we cannot take any step that potentially closes the path of development towards shale gas production, always bearing environmental considerations in mind, and therefore I ask for a wise decision to be reached in this matter.

 
  
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  Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE). - Mr President, following public opinion in my country, I would like to raise again the issue of an amendment which I have co-signed urging the Member States not to authorise any new operations using fracking in the EU.

We are not talking here about whether or not shale gas is a valuable resource that should be exploited. That is obvious. We are talking about fracking technology which has proved to have negative environmental and health effects, about which a large number of citizens have legitimate concerns and have even referred their claims to the Committee on Petitions. This has never been reported to this House.

The Commissioner for the Environment has stated in the press that there are more risks in the extraction of shale gas than conventional natural gas. Yes, this technology has been used – and is used – in the United States, but in a loss-making economic model and with very uncompetitive prices. That is why they are trying to explore it and to extend it to the European Union.

Whether we are speaking about R&D, funding, exploration or exploitation of unconventional shale gas, we should not forget that even exploration is related to fracking. We should ensure that the highest level of health and environmental protection remains our primary principle, over potential economic and strategic interests which still have to be demonstrated.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE). - (PT) Mr President, the sustainability of shale gas is not yet proven and involves many risks. Therefore, Parliament should support the moratorium while we do not know its effects on the climate, the environment and health, because there are still not sufficient guarantees. We need preventive laws because otherwise this will simply result in ‘greenwashing’ the disastrous image and effects of hydraulic fracturing. Furthermore, public consultation and social acceptability should be ensured.

Finally, thank you to the citizens who sent us mail to denounce the issue of hydraulic fracturing. Citizenship is not a lobby, it is the purpose of our policies, it is the right to communicate with your MEPs.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). - (PT) Mr President, for the sake of the most elementary form of good sense and as a bare minimum, it is recommended that there be an immediate moratorium imposed on the exploitation of shale gas and oil deposits.

The environmental impacts associated with the exploitation of these deposits are significant and extremely negative. Associated techniques, hydraulic fracturing, the injection of possibly toxic chemical pollutants into rock formations necessarily leads to enormous instability in these formations and the degradation of the groundwater resources or watercourses draining from these formations.

These examples of impact would be enough to ban the exploitation of these resources, but as a bare minimum a moratorium should be imposed. Moreover, there is no evidence that there would be a positive return on the amount of energy consumed from such an intensive extraction method.

It would be interesting to find out the results of and methodology used for this evaluation of the energy return on energy invested, if they do in fact exist, and if not, it would be interesting for such an assessment to be carried out. An energy return on energy invested evaluation covering the life cycle of each of these developments in order to assess the economic balance of this technique.

 
  
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  Jacek Olgierd Kurski, (EFD).(PL) Mr President, today’s debate is a manifestation of the unbelievable hypocrisy and inability to keep one’s word that prevails in Europe. When in 2007 my country, Poland, agreed to a dramatic fall in its international position by leaving the Nice system and going over to a double majority system, the compensation for this loss was supposed to be some wording introduced into the Lisbon Treaty concerning European energy solidarity. This wording, this principle, is being violated before our very eyes. Under Lisbon Treaty governments Nord Stream has been completed – a gas pipeline which could not fit in better with the principles of energy solidarity. Then along comes Russia and Europe’s largest country, Germany, and they opt to run a pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea for the sole reason – and they paid three times over the odds to do it – of bypassing such EU Member States as Poland. Today we are seeing another act in the same play, namely the senseless attacks directed against shale gas, which is an echo of the interests of Russia, which wants to maintain its monopoly, and France, which wants to maintain its dominance in nuclear reactor sales. Just one final remark, Mr President: if the principle of European energy solidarity is to have any meaning – and I am talking now to that side of the House – hands off shale gas! Let Europe enjoy its great wealth, which may serve as a flywheel for our economic development and economic and energy independence. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, I will be brief and keep to the facts. Due to the compulsory cuts in emissions, it is expected that gas will play an important role until at least 2035. The decline in conventional gas extraction means that Europe will become increasingly dependent on imports. Looking back to 2006, when Russia literally turned off Europe’s gas, we are still getting cold feet. Viewed in this way, the extraction of shale gas would be another option, albeit a dangerous one when I think of the water and chemicals that are pumped into the earth.

A positive point to note in this context is that an interesting pilot project is being carried out in this area by the University of Leoben together with Österreichische Mineralölverwaltung, concerning ‘clean fracking’, where, instead of chemicals, water, bauxite sand and starch are pumped into the earth. This means that if we give responsible research time to develop possibilities, we will be pioneers in Europe, enabling an affordable, but also environmentally friendly, technology to be developed.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, I wanted to make reference to what has been said by those who have spoken before me who have raised the problem of a possible seismic threat caused by fracking. I wanted to tell everyone that specialist studies of this kind were carried out in Poland, in Pomerania, which is my region, and it turned out that the seismic response to hydraulic fracking is less than the response from a lightning strike. I do not believe there has ever in the world been even so much as a local earthquake from a lightning strike.

Referring to the report, or to both reports, however, I would like to congratulate their rapporteurs and I shall most definitely vote for them, and I also urge you all to give them your support.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioners, I believe that three hours of intensive discussion show that this issue continues to be highly controversial. I am very glad that the report from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety gives consideration to the fears, concerns and uncertainty that exist, including in large sections of the scientific community, relating to the impact that this extraction of shale gas will have on the environment and health.

We certainly need alternatives to the fossil fuels currently being used. In my opinion, however, this cannot be a future fossil fuel with the knowledge we have today. That means that we must invest in research, we must allow the shale gas project time. We have the good fortune that shale gas is contained within the earth, which means that it will not escape and there is no time frame that we must adhere to.

We must take people’s fears into account. This was touched on by the Commissioner at the start: in Europe our population is distributed in a completely different way and we have a completely different population density. We need legislation that is very strict and gives consideration to human concerns, in other words environmental impact assessments, as well as very clear sanctions in the event that this legislation is infringed.

Quality of life is what we should be championing here in Europe, and that must not be sacrificed for short-term profits when we do not know today what effect these will have on us.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). - Mr President, I came to this debate as perhaps one of the ‘undecideds’, and I am afraid it has been so polarised that I remain to be convinced either way. But let us deal with some of the facts here and the reports we are dealing with. I urge people to read the reports, in particular the report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, which is extremely balanced and takes into account many of the concerns. Let us also recognise that Article 194(2) states very clearly that Member States are sovereign when it comes to their energy mix and their energy choice.

I have received a great deal of lobbying only on one amendment, which concerns whether we should urge Member States to place a moratorium on fracking. I will only speak for my own Member State. We have not issued exploration licences. We have some licensing options to explore the potential, but the government and minister have said very clearly that they will do nothing until they see research, and that will not be available until 2014.

We need to look at all of the risks and evidence that is there. Therefore, I am questioning whether we need to vote on this amendment for a moratorium, given that in many Member States there already is a de facto moratorium in place.

 
  
 

(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Günther Oettinger, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, we would like to thank you for the many suggestions, criticisms and questions you have put forward and on this basis we will certainly continue to focus intensively over the coming weeks on the work being carried out between several Commissioners and our departments and services. Thoroughness will take precedence over speed here.

It has been highlighted today how competences are divided up. What we do not have is a mandate in the area of energy policy or a general mandate to make yes or no decisions on shale gas. A ban or general permission without further obligations cannot fall within the competence of European policy. What we have, what my colleague Mr Potočnik has above all, are applicable rules, an applicable European regulatory framework for environmental protection, for soil and groundwater protection and for the protection of health. This must be observed. The Member States are under an obligation to observe it. If there are abuses, these are investigated. The question – which we are analysing – is whether we need to expand our legislation on conservation and on the protection of the environment, climate and health.

Secondly: Europe’s energy mix is already being affected by the development of shale gas in the United States. Today we have large quantities of LNG in Europe from various production countries across the world, because this gas is no longer exported to the United States. This means the Americans are ensuring that they meet their own gas needs through shale gas, and we have access to LNG by means of existing and planned LNG terminals. The rush by Member States to build new LNG terminals and to obtain funding, whether via the European Investment Bank or via the budget, is just as great in the three Baltic states as it is in the Mediterranean region, on the Adriatic, in Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.

There is a second indirect advantage for us resulting from shale gas in the United States. Thanks to the shale gas revolution the Russians were prepared to enter into negotiations and also arbitration proceedings with us in relation to long-term agreements and maximum prices for gas. Some gas contracts with the Russians have already been amended and the gas price lowered a little, because shale gas has brought about a change on the global market, a reduction in the price of gas, and will continue to do so. The sequence is therefore clear: we will check the applicable rules and will be willing to update and expand these if necessary.

There was one question that I found fascinating: do we need gas at all? I would like to say to you explicitly that the energy mix and technology is a matter for the Member States – and I do not believe that an amendment to Article 194 will be accepted by the Member States in our generation, as the circumstances in the Member States are so different that the decision for or against nuclear power, the decision on how long to use nuclear power for and how much of it to use, and the decision for or against coal, gas or renewable energies will not be handed over to European level by the 28 Member States. I do not expect this to happen in the foreseeable future. That being the case, it is clear that important decisions lie with the Member States.

I am in favour of the strong development of renewable energies. At present, however, 100 % renewable energies for transport, heating, electricity and industry is a long-term vision and one that, if you try to achieve it too quickly, becomes a sheer illusion. There was in fact a broad understanding here in Parliament that gas is the most flexible and environmentally friendly supplementary energy source to ensure security of supply alongside increasing renewable energies.

Mr Bütikofer, looking at the issue objectively – a short while ago you were still sporting your green battle dress from your party conference and were getting a little hot under the collar (I have to say I admired your passion) – the Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, someone we both admire, is asking for gas-fired power stations to be built via capacity mechanisms to ensure that renewable energies do not present an obstacle to security of supply. This means that you have to ask the question. I suggest that over the next 30 years we will have an urgent need for gas – regardless of whether this is conventional or unconventional – if the development of renewable energies such as solar and wind power, which cannot meet baseload energy needs and are not constantly available, is to remain compatible with security of supply and affordability in Europe. We will not be able to manage without gas over the coming decades and, therefore, ultimately without CCS either, if we want to take action in the area of CO2.

One last, general point that is on my mind: where do competences, both yours and ours, lie in the area of energy and climate protection at European level? In the three 20-20-20 criteria! These were broadly agreed upon and set in 2007 by means of the approval of all Member States in the European Council and, in parallel, by means of a large majority here in the European Parliament. I have now started the discussion on new targets for 2030, as 2020 is tomorrow – and for investors, it was yesterday.

What I ask is this: amidst all the arguments, if we want to achieve agreement between all Member States, from Belgium and Germany to Poland and the UK, on matters concerning energy and climate protection policy and therefore want to retain competence and authority in relation to energy policy issues, also for the next European Parliament and the one after that, we need to be willing to compromise. If everyone tries to push through their own ideal or stubborn position, we will not get anywhere!

We need a willingness to compromise between energy strategy and environmental protection. We need a willingness to compromise between countries that use 90 % coal – Poland today – and do not wish to import gas from Russia, because this is the lesson they have learned from their past. That is why Poland is looking towards nuclear energy and shale gas. We need a willingness to compromise from the British, so that they are willing, like Tony Blair back then, to Europeanise energy and climate protection policy further rather than renationalise it. After all, one thing is clear: when it comes to climate protection, each Member State alone has no global relevance!

The EU 27 – we are still responsible for 11 % of global CO2 emissions. If we do not stick together, if we are not willing to compromise, if we accuse each other of lobbying and dependence on lobbyists, if we do not strive for new pragmatic targets for CO2 emission cuts, efficiency and renewable energies for 2030, this success story of European energy and climate protection policy will come to an end more quickly than many people think, and with it our significance in the eyes of Washington and Beijing and others, as well as our function as a role model.

For this reason, leaving aside the issue of shale gas, I am calling for a willingness to compromise from you all, if the success story of European energy and climate protection policy is to continue in the next decade with you or your successors. At this time, with an anti-European mood in a growing number of Member States, incredible diversity in the energy mix and growing mistrust, as it was possible to observe here in the Chamber today, I see difficulties ahead when the time comes to update, with our support, binding targets on CO2 emission cuts, renewable energies and efficiency – hopefully next year in this Parliament – if there is to be a certain chance of success.

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, honourable Members, it is good that we have this debate in the afternoon rather than in the evening.

I will try to start with some facts. There is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to shale gas. Reserves, best technology, influence on health, influence on the environment. I think the best proof for that fact is the differences in the positions in the Member States; obviously they are basing their positions on something which is a solid analysis and they are coming to quite different conclusions.

The second important fact is that it is true that the US is ahead of us. It is also true that this has changed their energy market there, but maybe in this case their being ahead of us is not so bad and we should learn from their experiences. By the way, they are also learning from their own experiences. If there is one thing that really is clear today, it is that we need more knowledge, we need more understanding, we need better studies and we should continue doing that.

What we already know is that there are considerable risks in a number of areas: surface and ground water, air quality, land use, biodiversity, seismic risks, local communities’ traffic and noise disturbances. These have been identified as areas to which attention needs to be paid.

You probably know that in September we published three studies. One study, on the economic potential, was made by Günther Oettinger’s services. Another study, on climate impact, was carried out by Connie Hedegaard’s departments, and the third was on the environmental impact.

What can be concluded – even if one conclusion is of course that we should continue with work of this kind in an analytical way – is that there are two conclusions we can draw from an environmental point of view and our analyses.

First, the risks related to unconventional gas exploration are higher than in conventional gas exploration. Second, existing environmental legislation on the EA, the CA, the Mining Directive, the Water Framework Directive, REACH and so on, is important and applicable and should be applied today. But it is not sufficient to address all the risks identified.

So it is on that basis actually that we have proposed what we are here today together to explain. We have drawn up the proposal jointly. The form has not yet been decided because this is also connected, of course, with the impact assessment which we are starting, but I would just like to remind everybody that the International Energy Agency (IEA) position also is, and I quote, ‘there is a clear need for a strict regulatory framework’.

I would also like to touch on the question many of you brought up, the question of competitiveness. I am not denying, rather I am acknowledging, that some industries, especially industries which have higher energy inputs and costs of course, are very affected by how energy prices are moving, as are households. Of course this is important. But to give you just one fact: last week I was at the VDI, at the German Innovation Engineering Federation, and they have actually said quite clearly that the average input costs for German manufacturing industry are 2% energy, 42% materials and 18% labour. I think that this is why I am also paying so much attention, if you remember, to resource efficiency because I firmly believe this is one of the ways of not only addressing environmental concerns, but also of addressing issues connected to the competitiveness of Europe.

If we look at the trends in prices for resources, not just energy resources, but also energy resources, since the beginning of this century, we see that these prices have begun to go up fast and the expectation is that this will continue.

So I think we should really focus and prepare regarding the questions of how we can improve resource productivity, resource efficiency and how we can also improve energy efficiency.

The third issue I would like to mention from the competitiveness angle is that we can, of course, also learn the lesson that not respecting safety, human health and environmental health considerations can also be very costly for companies.

We only need to recall the judgment last week imposing a USD 4.5 billion fine on British Petroleum. We should really do everything possible to ensure something like that does not happen, that we manage the risks in an appropriate way.

Concerning the possibility of a ban: I think many of you mentioned that. It is more theoretical than actually practical because at the end of the day, you know the responsibilities of the Member States under the Treaty and we also know that if there were to be a proposal of this kind, we would need unanimity from the Member States.

In the context of the moratorium which many of you mentioned, what I would like to say is that activities in Europe are currently at exploration stage. Intensified drilling and hydraulic fracturing are not expected for another two to three years from now, but full-scale hydraulic fracturing will also be deployed during the exploration stage for pilot product testing and this may give rise to certain risks and very likely also to public concerns.

The Commission’s timeline for conducting the impact assessment is deemed suitable for identifying the most appropriate risk management measures, both with regard to exploration and to extraction. But I would like to emphasise that Parliament should rest assured that the Commission will keep abreast of and react to any development which would change that timeline.

In this exercise it will be also important of course for Member States to apply all the obligations pursuant to current Union legislation.

So where are we now? We have impact assessments in the making. The public consultation will be open until the end of the year and next year we plan to come with a risk management proposal which should efficiently and effectively address the existing risks. I think this is basically in everybody’s interests.

Clear, predictable, safe conditions under which exploitation could be possible, proper management of risks connected with human health and protection of the environment. We know that we have to address all those questions now. That is why we are rushing with our preparations and we shall do our best to earn the public trust needed. Honestly, we have no guarantee, but we really need that trust. First and foremost, trust may be needed by the companies which could potentially invest huge amounts of money.

Finally, I think that shale gas has potential, especially as a substitute for coal. But we should not forget that shale gas is a fossil fuel and in that context we should not forget either that we are supporting the development of renewable energy with good reason, and we should continue doing that, as Günther Oettinger also mentioned.

So finally I would like to thank you for the reports which were really timely and also for today’s quite lively discussion. Rest assured that we will take your messages into consideration and the risks which you raised will be dealt with in our 2013 proposal. We will also consider risk management and regulatory shortcomings in our impact assessment.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik, rapporteur. − (PL) Mr President, I think that must have been one of the most lively and dynamic debates this term, which goes to show the passions that slumber in Members if we start talking about shale gas. It also illustrates the difficulty I had in ensuring that my report lived up to the hopes and anticipations of the entire House, as well as the majority of my colleagues.

On the one hand, voices are raised because it does not contain a moratorium, and now an amendment concerning a moratorium is being introduced. On the other hand – on the right – Members from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group say that it fails properly to fulfil their aesthetic impressions, as the report features leftist miasmas. I was, or am, therefore in the situation of someone who is steering a ship in a storm – the most important thing is to make it into port. Along the way some deckhouses may be swept away, masts may break, and sometimes crew members may be swept overboard. I do think, though, that this report contains the voice of reason, because it talks about holding a review of current legislation at EU and national level, creating a catalogue of best available techniques and practices, ensuring the highest technical standards, providing ongoing monitoring, drafting the highest safety and risk management standards, and arriving at a clear definition of industry liability for any harm caused, on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Full transparency of actions, a duty to declare concentrations and chemical composition of hydraulic fluids, minimising the use of toxic substances, minimising the use of water in the fracking process, and measuring water quality before and after drilling.

All the fears that arise today have therefore been taken into consideration – although these fears do not arise in all communities, as illustrated by the example of Poland, where the majority are positively inclined towards shale gas extraction – but we need to take the average and assure the citizens of Europe that in Brussels or Strasbourg the writ is clear – and we made every effort to guarantee the safety of both the environment and citizens in the exploitation of shale gas.

 
  
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  Niki Tzavela, rapporteur. − Mr President, I would like to thank everybody for the very lively debate. I can see Mr Bütikofer smiling: you were indeed full of passion today. I thank the shadow rapporteurs from every political group. We cooperated very well – including Mr Bütikofer – and I think we came up with a good compromise text, even if it does come from the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. The focus should be – and it is – on industry and energy. We did not ignore all the precautions that have to be taken by the industry when they are fracking.

So I appeal to my colleagues for tomorrow’s vote. We have to recognise the potential in shale gas. It is not the solution for the future but it is a potential one for the transitional period. We have to compromise and see what the best alternative is that we have for meeting our targets for clean energy in Europe.

Last and not least, from our side as politicians, we have to have a balance with the economic crisis that exists within the 27 Member States. We have to respect the natural resources that each Member State has and see that they are explored and exploited in the best way, using the best environmentally friendly methods and techniques.

For the Commissioners, it looks like we are at the beginning of a long journey concerning and referring to shale gas. We still have a long way to go and we still have to analyse all the impacts this will have, not only on the environment, but also on the competitiveness of the European economy. I think we have started well with this debate today and I wish good luck to this new, natural resource in Europe. Europe deserves it and we politicians have to make the best out of it in the best environmentally friendly way.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Erik Bánki (PPE), in writing. – (HU) First and foremost I would like to congratulate Mr Sonik on his excellent work, which has succeeded in finding a compromise acceptable to everyone in this vital report on shale gas. As a Hungarian MEP I welcome the fact that the European Parliament is not moving for a European moratorium on unconventional gas production, thereby enabling every Member State in the future to make their own decision about use of energy resources. Just like every activity performed by humans, shale gas extraction can never be risk free, which is why it is important that the existing framework of environmental rules is complied with to the letter. However, we must not make the mistake of creating surplus rules on the basis of fears that have no scientific grounds, ones that will stand in the way of adapting this promising technology in Europe. Let us not forget that shale gas could increase security of supply in certain regions of Europe, as well as creating a new source of supply on the fossil fuels market and impacting favourably on energy prices. Last but not least, cheaper gas would increase the competitiveness of EU industry. It is also common knowledge that the ‘shale gas revolution’ unfolding in the United States will significantly reduce US demand for gas reserves in the Middle East, which means these reserves will become cheaper and more easily accessible for European consumers. In the light of all this I do not think it is a good idea for EU regulation to make it more difficult or even impossible to extract such an energy resource, one that under suitable circumstances could contribute to the energy supply of the EU and Hungary.

 
  
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  Gaston Franco (PPE), in writing. – (FR) This Parliamentary report presents a balanced and calm approach to a highly controversial subject, and I am pleased about this. I am of the opinion that the choice of energy mix and shale gas extraction permits are of national competence. This conforms to the principle of technological neutrality I defend under the Energy Roadmap 2050. This is why I do not agree with the idea of a European moratorium on shale gas exploration and extraction. Nevertheless, the European Union should draw up, on a European scale, rules that guarantee protection of the environment and high safety levels. At present, hydraulic fracturing poses serious problems that cannot be ignored. Moreover, while there is talk of abundant shale hydrocarbon resources in Europe, no one can say with certainty that the potential is sufficiently promising to envisage industrial exploitation. Therefore, to make enlightened choices, let us continue evaluating the presumed reserves and researching exploration techniques. Let us not close the door on this energy source, in view of the developments on the world energy market and the stakes with regard to competitiveness for Europe.

 
  
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  Jolanta Emilia Hibner (PPE), in writing.(PL) In congratulating the rapporteurs, I feel it is worth noting that the revolution in detecting and extracting shale gas that is taking place before our eyes may turn out to be a real blessing for Europe. Extracting gas from shale on the one hand means diversification of sources of gaseous fuel, which is a condition for the provision of energy security, while on the other hand it ensures a restriction in emissions arising from combustion, a reduction in air pollution by the power generation sector and an increase in energy efficiency. The economy of the EU needs shale gas to get itself back into shape and to help create jobs, while at the same time breaking the link between economic growth and a rise in CO2 emissions. Shale gas means better implementation of the EU’s climate policy through a change in the energy balance resulting from a gradual withdrawal from an economy largely based on coal and replacing it with more environmentally friendly energy media. Is it possible to extract shale gas and lose nothing in the process? Clearly our fellow Members are talking about this in the reports we are discussing today. The recipe is simple: transparent legal regulations, an honest dialogue with society and environmental organisations, promotion of the safest acquisition technologies, and dedicated monitoring of areas where extraction is taking place. For its future development, Europe needs good and cheap energy – and the fates have handed it a gift in the form of shale gas. Rejecting it would be highly unwise, and would rule our continent out as a respected player in the global energy market.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE), in writing. – The TFEU Article 194(2) clearly states that energy policy is a matter for each individual Member State. It is important not to block the ability of Member States to make political choices on energy policy as this is a clear area of subsidiarity. In line with the principle of subsidiarity, Member States should be free to decide on their own energy policy. Shale extraction is an issue which I have followed very closely and until we have the results of the environmental impact assessment studies, currently being carried out at national level, I intend to reserve my judgement on this matter. The Minister of State for Natural Resources re-affirmed to the Dáil that no decision will be made about commercial shale gas exploration or ‘fracking’ until 2014 at the earliest. Until there is time to consider the research the Minister confirmed that ‘the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised’ in Ireland. It is most unfortunate that we must vote on this report before we have the results of the environmental impact assessment studies. At present we simply do not have enough information to make an informed decision on shale extraction.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. - (CS) I admit that the draft report on the environmental impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction activities makes me deeply uncomfortable. It is well known that the debate on this subject is to a certain extent shaped by the drilling industry, and I completely understand these entrepreneurs; it should be noted, however, that in densely populated areas similar extensive interference to the subsoil associated with chemical reactions and with the leaching of part of the compounds obtained from the depths of the earth carries certain risks. Geological maps show that over time there has been disturbance to the arrangement of the horizontal layers in the mantle. Therefore, even at great depths in the earth’s crust, we will inevitably encounter cracks, thrust faults and other geological phenomena that can cause catastrophic phenomena during the extraction of gas and oil, and also when carrying out certain other activities. It surprises me that shale gas is considered an environmentally clean fuel, even though it is mainly composed of methane. When burned it produces the same amount of CO2 as conventional types of natural gas or carbonaceous fuels. The potential risks to the plains of the United States or Canada or Australia cannot be compared with any problems in a densely populated area. It is therefore appropriate to proceed with caution. In my opinion, in a large part of the EU the risks significantly outweigh the benefits. I therefore agree with the need to carefully review and modify the regulations governing the extraction of such mineral raw materials.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing.(RO) The European Union’s dependence on energy imports, in particular oil and, more recently, natural gas, is a central concern with regard to energy policy for reasons of security of energy supply. The fall in primary production of natural gas has increased the EU’s dependence on primary energy imports, with more than 60 % of gas consumed by the Union being imported. A geological resources study published in May 2012 indicated that natural gas could make up 25 % of global energy resources. Shale gas is a resource which no EU Member State can afford to neglect. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, Europe has 18 000 billion cubic metres of shale gas reserves, a far from negligible figure for the European continent. Of course, the impact that the exploitation of this gas can have on the environment must be borne in mind, but the technologies used around the world today can facilitate efficient exploitation, including with regard to environmental protection. Rational exploitation would have a dual purpose: reducing the EU’s dependence on gas imports, and creating new jobs and horizontal industrial development.

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing. (CS) I ask all supporters of shale gas to remove their rose-tinted spectacles, given to them by the mining lobby, just for a moment. The environmental risks of shale gas are unresolved. In the EU we do not want to keep such risks under wraps using contracts as they do in the United States; we have the Aarhus Convention. The extraction of shale gas is not sufficiently controlled by current legislation. Many rules have not been implemented to the required extent in the Member States. Extraction has both ecological and safety-related cross-border impacts, such as threats to aquifers or induced seismic activity. Shale gas does not solve either Europe’s energy security or the EU’s independence from energy imports. Reserves of shale gas can only compensate for the decline in production of conventional gas, at the cost of environmental risks and higher greenhouse gas emissions. The extraction of shale gas will not bring down gas prices in the EU to the same extent as in the United States because its supplies in Europe are smaller and extraction will be more expensive. However, even if there were a reduction in gas prices, this would only cause an increase in its consumption, as has happened in the United States. In many countries the public have rejected the extraction of shale gas. We represent the public, we have the necessary information and we have the appropriate responsibility. I call upon the proponents of shale gas extraction to realise that the European Parliament should represent European citizens, not the oil companies and their profits.

 
  
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  Monika Smolková (S&D), in writing. - (SK) Shale gas extraction raises many questions. Although the conditions in my country, Slovakia, are not right for this type of extraction, it is necessary to speak very openly about the arguments for and against the extraction of shale gas. I appreciate the Commission’s report, which earnestly summarises the threat posed by shale gas extraction to the environment. I would also like to support the report by Mr Sonik. On the other hand, I believe that the report by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is too optimistic. Economic data on employment reported by firms, as well as estimates on the extraction of reserves, are so far only estimates. Legislative conditions are against extraction – offices and institutions are not prepared for this technology, and it is not clear how the discharge of fractured fluids will be monitored or by whom, or how companies will be liable for any damages. To date there has been no commercial extraction in the EU and reserves are as yet unproven. Therefore the environment and public health must take precedence over economic considerations.

 
  
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  Vladimir Urutchev (PPE), in writing.(BG) Our gas market has changed dramatically in recent years, mainly because of the lower price of LPG supplies redirected from the United States to the European market. The main reason for this is the shale gas revolution in the United States, thanks to which it is not only close to fully meeting its gas needs, but in the near future may even become an exporter of natural gas. Shale gas is a reality, which will continue to change not only the energy, but also the economic future of the world, firstly because the price of shale gas is three to five times lower than the current price of gas in Europe. The low cost of energy is a powerful factor in improving the competitiveness of any economy, and in the global competition for markets, this possibility should not be underestimated by any country. Instead of thinking about a European ban on the development of shale gas extraction, then, let us take a constructive view and take advantage of the opportunities offered by European shale gas, in the best and safest way possible. Let us review our legislation and take all necessary steps to protect the soil, drinking water, the environment and our health. Let us support the search for new and safer technological solutions for shale gas, instead of hampering progress.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR), in writing. In my constituency of London gas prices are at an all-time high. Fuel poverty affects almost a fifth of London households. It also contributed to 2 500 excess winter deaths in 2010/11. A British Geological Survey study in 2010 estimated that if UK shales were similar to those in the USA they could yield some 150 billion cubic metres of gas. Shale gas could be an abundant and cheap source of energy that could help re-ignite the economy. Also with carbon capture and storage technology, shale gas can be used as a low-carbon source of energy. I believe that we urgently need to begin drilling and testing to make an assessment of how much shale gas is recoverable. We are facing an energy crisis and ordinary citizens are suffering from a high cost of living. At a time of economic turmoil, we must do everything we can to reduce the burden on our constituents. I supported shale gas extraction as I believe it can be used as a tool to tackle climate change. I also hope that shale gas will ensure that Londoners can stay warm in winters to come.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Ziobro (EFD), in writing. – (PL) In a situation of economic collapse, we need to take every step to buttress European productivity and the economy of individual states within the Union, and to lower citizens’ costs of living. There has to be a consensus on these objectives in the forum of Parliament. This makes it all the harder to understand the behaviour of representatives of the European left. This behaviour runs counter not only to the spirit of integration, but also to common sense. The attack on shale gas – the remedy for Europe’s energy problems – is remarkable for its one-sided and narrow point of view, a point of view that has so far been most associated with lobbyists for Russia’s Gazprom – a monopolist which will be the biggest loser from shale gas. I would just remind you that the recent CERA report assesses shale gas deposits in Europe at 173 billion/m3. The potential to extract and make use of even 10 % of these geological reserves means a massive change to European security in the gas supply sphere and a significant strengthening of the European economy. This is especially true since CERA estimates suggest that by 2025 the level of gas production in Europe should lie in the 60-200 billion m3 range. Moreover, in contrast to Russian gas, this gas is to be found within the European sales market. As a consequence, if Europe can just manage to develop unconventional gas extraction and suitably control its costs, it will provide strong competition both for Russian gas transported from distant Siberia and for LNG produced from shale gas and brought to Europe from the United States.

 
Last updated: 1 March 2013Legal notice