Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has lifted restrictions on the controversial practice of shale gas hydraulic fracturing, giving a green light to drilling, in a country that consumes the most gas in the EU but where conventional gas reserves are dwindling.
From a net exporter, the UK has become an importer. Promises of shale gas from Cuadrilla Resources, a small British company, could increase energy independence. Some hope that domestic shale gas production could reduce prices by 2% to 4% from 2021. But there is a world between promises and reality.
The British government‘s decision to resume hydraulic fracturing, a year and a half after two minor earthquakes which worried the British people, shows one thing: the choice of the British government to develop this industry.
But in Europe, the UK is isolated. Only Poland has made the same choice because it wants to escape the Russian claws. For the time being, drilling in Poland has been disappointing, but the rush with which Exxon Mobil abandoned researches in Poland had more to do with competing interests in Russia.
Elsewhere in Europe, France and Bulgaria have banned hydraulic fracturing under the pressure of their public opinion. Germany and Austria have so far decided not to propose exploration licenses. In Europe, demography and land rights also have nothing to do with those of the United States. It is not really possible to have a European policy in this field. The European Parliament just called on the EU countries to exercise restraint on the development of shale gas but refused to ban it and the European Commission published a few studies on unconventional fossil fuels.