The European Parliament has rejected a proposal to ban new hydraulic fracturing operations on European Union territory, but while opportunities abound, they won’t be revolutionary just yet.
Europe’s decision was necessary. There was simply too much at stake: Russia’s grip on the market has gotten too strong; EU natural gas production is on the decline; and consumers have not benefited from the US natural gas boom.
Worse, if Europe does not embrace its shale potential, expensive energy could eventually drive energy-intensive industries elsewhere (like the US) and this would spell Europe’s economic doom. Industries in Europe pay on average three times the price for gas as their US counterparts.
While Europe has serious environmental concerns about fracking, it will have to figure out how to address these with the appropriate regulations. The environmental resistance to fracking has led to an increase in European imports of polluting coal from the US to fill in the energy gap. In the end, the anti-fracking campaign is doing nothing for the environment—in fact, it may be harming it with the uptick in coal use.
Still, the 27 member countries of the EU can take their own decisions on how to proceed with their shale reserves—and while some are on board, others are under no small amount of political pressure to bow to environmental concerns.
There will be a number of complications for those who would like to see…