European Parliament Calls for Caution on Fracking, but Avoids Wide Ban
The European Parliament has rejected calls for a moratorium on shale gas extraction across the Union, but says caution must be exercised and "robust" regulation should be in force.
Sitting in Strasbourg, the Parliament decided not to call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, after accepting reports on the issue from two of its standing committees. However some MEPs expressed opposition, saying they would like to see hydraulic fracturing technology banned on environmental grounds.
The 754-member body accepted two reports on shale extraction and hydraulic fracture, one from its environment and one from its industry committee.
Each member state has the right to decide on whether to exploit shale gas, according to the Energy Committee resolution, prepared by Niki Tzavela and adopted with 492 votes in favour, 129 against and 13 abstentions.
Environmentalists expressed disappointment that a majority of the Parliament did not agree to a moratorium and vowed a long-term battle to permanently ban fracking from Europe.
Food & Water Europe policy officer Geert De Cock commented The fact that one-third of MEPs, representing a diverse political spectrum, voted in favour of the moratorium, shows that there is wide spread concern about fracking.
In Poland, which has some of the continent's richest shale potential, reaction was defiant. The country would continue to drill for shale gas despite objections raised by some members of the EP, Polish officials said Wednesday.
"We will be persistently trying to show Europe that production of shale gas makes sense," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a press conference. Poland has a treaty right to freely choose the sources of its energy, Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said Wednesday.
Poland would like to use its shale gas reserves to reduce its reliance on natural gas imported from Russia and build gas-fired power plants to diversify away from coal as the primary source of its electricity. The government has encouraged state-controlled firms, led by gas firm PGNiG SA (PGN.WA), to do exploration drilling, mostly in Poland's north and east.
But debate before the voting was lively at times.
As the BBC reports, Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter said shale gas extraction would "destroy the future of mankind"."This gas has no future," he concluded.
But the position of those MEPs opposed to shale gas extraction was criticised by Polish conservative MEP Konrad Szymanski who said it could lead to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
"Why don't the greens see that?" he asked.
An official document describes the background:
"In order to cover all possible angles, two committees looked into shale gas extraction. The environment committee investigated the economic impact, while the industry and energy committee delved into other aspects, such as industrial and energy. Boguslaw Sonnik, a Polish Christian-Democrat, wrote a report on behalf of the environment committee; while Niki Tzavela, a Greek member of the Europe of freedom and democracy group, penned one on behalf of the industry committee. Both reports were adopted by their committee."
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