Shale gas – a missed opportunity? rwe.com
Fracking is not yet as common in Europe as it is in the USA.

New technologies to extract oil and especially gas from previously inaccessible sources are changing the political situation of the USA dramatically. A few months ago a widely quoted study from the International Energy Agency came to the conclusion that the USA may become a net exporter of energy within a few years; and that they might even become the world leader of exporting energy.

Additionally the German intelligence Bundesnachrichtendienst has published a paper in which they reasoned about the consequences this might have for the world. It seems quite sure that the method of "fracking" plays a significant role in the political drift that is happening. How should Europe respond to that method?

Fracking is not very popular in Europe. Many people are afraid of the impact the method might have on the environment, as chemicals are used to break up rock formations in which shale oil or gas is stored. The efficiency of the method is controversial, as it is much more complex than the conventional way of hauling fossil fuels. Although the USA are pivoting their military and diplomatic resources from Europe and the Middle East towards Asia, they can’t rely on oil from that region – at least not in the scale they used to import it. So they have political incentives to become more independent from imported energy – and thanks to fracking, they seem to succeed. As this impressive process continues, many people are calling for a real kick-start of fracking in Europe, too.

Europe is indeed still very dependent on imported energy, which still comes in big amounts from notoriously unstable regions in the Middle East or volatile trading partners like Russia. And this happens in a time, in which the military capabilities of the NATO are shifted in the USA and reduced in the EU. Even a renaissance of coal (which can be seen in many parts of the world) is unthinkable considering the ambitious plans for reducing carbon-emissions. As Germany decided to quit nuclear power as an energy source completely and the renewable energies still have a long way to go, the question about the energy supply of Europe in the near future becomes pressing. Is fracking the right way to secure independent energy supply? Or would it be a step back into the time of dirty fossil resources and just stand in the way to become a green continent?

To find out more about fracking, click here.