Globe & Mail: Europe’s shale gas backers are living in a fantasy world

The Ukraine crisis has come as a godsend to the shale gas cheerleaders in Europe.

Russian natural gas exports to Western and Central Europe, half of which flow through Ukraine, are unreliable, they argue; we need our own gas and – wouldn’t you know it – we’re sitting on an underground ocean of energy. Our policy should be drill, baby, drill and if we turn the continent into a pincushion, we will be energy independent and competitive with the Americans, who have so much gas they’re practically giving it away.

On paper, it’s a compelling argument. Parts of Europe, from England to Poland, are sitting on vast amounts of shale gas. On Monday, even Scotland, which may decide in September to break away from the United Kingdom, learned from the British Geological Survey that it has enough shale gas to supply all of Britain’s gas needs for 30 years. That’s good news for Scotland, whose North Sea oil and gas fields are running out of puff.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been pumping up the British shale gas story as if it were the greatest thing since deep-fried Mars bars. Noting that the United States has become a magnet for energy-intensive industries, like the chemical makers, Mr. Cameron has talked about “reshoring” – jobs returning from overseas – if Britain were to get into the shale game. The country’s massive energy-payments deficit would disappear and the use of carbon dioxide-belching coal would plummet, along with Britons’ energy bills. Europeans generally pay three times as much for gas as Americans and Canadians. And if Britain drills, you can bet that France and Germany would not be far behind. Those two countries wouldn’t tolerate handing Britain a massive energy advantage.


Source: Globe & Mail, 2014


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