IFandP: Shale gas – the key to European energy independence?

Europe’s increasing dependence on natural gas imports is a worrying trend. However, with considerable shale gas reserves, improvements in energy security may just be around the corner – if the right conditions for a safe and commercially-viable exploitation are put in place. Ian McInness considers some of the issues.

As its own production of energy has dwindled, much of Europe has become increasingly dependent on imports. According to the European Commission’s (EC) figures for 2011 in 2009, oil imports mainly came from Russia, Norway, Libya and for some countries, Iran. Nearly 80% of the EU-27’s natural gas came from Russia, Norway and Algeria. In 2009, over 57% of the EU-27’s oil came from Russia and nearly 54% of that was imported for all of its energy needs. Perhaps more worryingly, the figures for oil and gas dependency on imports were a little over 84% and 64%, respectively. According to the EC, during the 1980s the EU-27’s dependency on energy imports was less than 40%, a worrying trend as energy dependence now outweighs home energy production.

In an ideal situation one would wish to see a declining dependency on imports for energy and, preferably, to be as close to energy independence as possible. Furthermore, it is not good to have all of one’s eggs in one or a few baskets and there is already talk in the media about the EU or parts of it suffering from its embargo on Iranian oil.  MORE


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