European Nations Weigh Pros and Cons of Fracking ; Environment Figures Heavily in Discussions
European nations weigh the pros and cons of fracking
LONDON - France and Bulgaria have already banned it, and in Britain the government's attempts to promote it have led to heated demonstrations in the countryside. It is complicating Germany's attempts to wean itself from fossil fuels and forcing Russia to recalibrate the energy-export strategy that sustains its economy.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has already revolutionized the energy business in the United States, which is now 87 percent self- sufficient for gas, and it is transforming environmental policy, too.
Now the temptation to follow the United States in extracting shale gas from rock on a large scale is presenting Europe with contentious trade-offs that could affect the continent's economic competitiveness, test its commitment to curbing climate change and determine its place in a 21st-century version of the Great Game.
The early signs are that densely populated Europe, with citizens generally more sensitive to environmental concerns and more willing to tolerate high energy costs, is unlikely to embrace the technique as the Americans have. In Britain, near Balcombe in West Sussex, England, up to 1,000 demonstrators set up a tent camp this summer to protest test drilling by the energy company Cuadrilla in what became a symbol of opposition to fracking. More than 100 people were arrested. The company removed its test rig and left the site in late September, but protesters like Ewa Jasiewicz from the group No Dash for Gas promised further protests if Cuadrilla returned.
Europe uses natural gas for about 24 percent of its energy - similar to the 28 percent in the United States. But gas from fracking represents only 0.1 percent of the energy supply, compared with 15 percent in America.
In France as well as Britain, public debates over fracking have been mirrored by disputes in the government over competing concerns about economic growth, energy security and environmental protection. Poland is pressing ahead with fracking, eager to lessen its dependence on Russia as a supplier. …