Fracking for oil and natural gas remains slow to take hold in Europe in spite of deepening fears over the continent’s energy dependence on Russia.
Europe is under increasing pressure internally and from the United States to cut energy imports from Russia, which supplies the continent with some 30 percent of its natural gas. But environmental worries and drilling setbacks continue to hold European nations back from fracking to exploit their own potentially large natural gas reserves, even with tensions high over Russia’s seizure of Crimea and ongoing violence in Ukraine.
“There is still a lot of local opposition in Europe, and this will be far from an easy task,” said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, the senior gas analyst for the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
The Obama administration said it was working with European countries to help identify their natural gas resources, and Congress is holding hearings about how to counter Russia’s energy influence. A constant theme is Europe’s deep polarization over hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, a drilling process in which water and chemicals are blasted underground to break shale rock and release the oil and natural gas within.
“The curious position that Europe continues to be in is to ask vociferously and aggressively for U.S. shale gas and then be totally unwilling to develop their own resources,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., who’s the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said this month that the country would have no fracking for economic purposes in the near future. The government proposed a set of rules that include a fracking ban above a depth of 3,000 meters _ 1.9 miles _ for the next seven years, while the opposition Green Party wants to go even further to preserve what’s been a de facto fracking moratorium.
In Germany, a leader in solar and wind energy, fracking is deeply unpopular and environmental campaigners have substantial influence.