The Shale Gas 'Revolution' in the United States: Global Implications, Options for the EU

13-05-2013

In recent years, the United States’ natural gas industry has undergone a significant transformation, dubbed a 'revolution': extraction rates have soared thanks to new technologies. The shale gas boom is having an unprecedented affect on the US energy market, and this, in turn, has important implications for the rest of the world, notably the Middle East and Russia. While the shale gas 'revolution' has spurred a debate on environmental consequences and sustainability within the US, other countries — including countries as diverse as Canada and China — have, in different ways, aimed to replicate the US boom. In the EU, a shale gas 'revolution' appears relatively unlikely, at least for the moment, given Europe’s less favourable geological conditions and its wary public. Nevertheless, some EU Member States rich in shale gas, such as Poland and the United Kingdom, are actively promoting shale gas exploration activities to diversify their energy mix, reduce energy dependency and enhance energy security. Other countries, such as France and Bulgaria, have for the moment chosen to privilege environmental constraints and have implemented bans. The remaining Member States seem to have adopted a 'wait-and-see' attitude. For all these states, however, the EU has an important role to play in ensuring a balanced common approach and encouraging the sustainable development of this industry while ensuring an adequate environmental protection. A recent Commission green paper on shale gas is a good initial step, although this should be followed with concrete action.

In recent years, the United States’ natural gas industry has undergone a significant transformation, dubbed a 'revolution': extraction rates have soared thanks to new technologies. The shale gas boom is having an unprecedented affect on the US energy market, and this, in turn, has important implications for the rest of the world, notably the Middle East and Russia. While the shale gas 'revolution' has spurred a debate on environmental consequences and sustainability within the US, other countries — including countries as diverse as Canada and China — have, in different ways, aimed to replicate the US boom. In the EU, a shale gas 'revolution' appears relatively unlikely, at least for the moment, given Europe’s less favourable geological conditions and its wary public. Nevertheless, some EU Member States rich in shale gas, such as Poland and the United Kingdom, are actively promoting shale gas exploration activities to diversify their energy mix, reduce energy dependency and enhance energy security. Other countries, such as France and Bulgaria, have for the moment chosen to privilege environmental constraints and have implemented bans. The remaining Member States seem to have adopted a 'wait-and-see' attitude. For all these states, however, the EU has an important role to play in ensuring a balanced common approach and encouraging the sustainable development of this industry while ensuring an adequate environmental protection. A recent Commission green paper on shale gas is a good initial step, although this should be followed with concrete action.