A US industrial boost following its ability to tap abundant shale gas reserves is provoking fears that imperilled energy-intensive European businesses will find it harder than ever to compete.
But calls for the EU to deliver a 'silver bullet' and emulate the US by tapping shale gas through 'fracking' remain controversial because of environmental and logistical concerns.
Partly due to its shale reserves, the United States is expected to become almost self-sufficient in oil and gas by 2035 and will overtake Russia in gas production by 2015 and Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2017, a recent International Energy Agency forecast shows.
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Advances in drilling and fracturing techniques enabling easier access to gas supplies have led to significant falls in US gas prices since the start of 2010, whilst European prices remain stubbornly high.
Industrial manufacturers have announced investments of more than $90 billion (€68 billion) in the United States to take advantage of its cheap natural gas, according to calculations that underline the revolutionary impact of shale gas on US industrial growth.
Astonishing impact on the US economy
Petrochemicals, fuel, fertiliser and steel companies, attracted by cheap energy are amongst those committed to multi-billion dollar investments, according to Dow Chemical, which has announced a €3 billion investment in Texas and Louisiana and calculated the total value of US industrial investments at $90 billion or more, the Financial Times reported in December.
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The development has spurred fear amongst concerned European manufacturers that they will be unable to compete in energy intensive sectors. It is clear that industry such as steelmaking, currently slumping in the EU, is shifting towards the United States after decades of decline.
By. EurActive via ENN