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Shale gas: fracking the Earth?

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Shale gas: fracking the Earth?

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In this edition of U-talk, Georgi, from Bulgaria, asks:

“Taking into account that in France, Ireland and Bulgaria the extraction of shale gas has been prohibited and in England and Germany there are earthquake and pollution problems after shale gas drilling, what is the European institutional position about this?”

Françoise Elbaz-Poulichet, a CNRS researcher, responds:

“What is shale gas? It is natural gas which is trapped in deep geological formations, quite spread out. Therefore, it seems that some European countries could have quite a lot of gas, especially France and Poland.

“The near-term interest is that we know how to get at it, and some countries consider their energy independence important, for instance from Russia in the case of Poland.

“From an environmental point of view, in my opinion, and especially when it’s about water resources, there are risks.

“At least there are if we look at the Americans’ experience. This is fossil fuel, so it’s an energy source that generates CO2, which will contribute to warming of the climate, contrary to renewable energies. This is methane gas, and methane has a much more powerful effect as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“The bit worry is leakage at the beginning of exploitation, and when the wells are dismantled.

“There are also accident risks, that are qualified as probable. We know they’re going to happen, it’s statistical: with a certain number of wells there has to be an accident. We don’t know where it’ll happen, or when. Afterwards, it’s like for any industrial explosion: you have know the risk you’re prepared to take. There are no global directives on mining in Europe.

“The point of view of the European Commissioner in charge of energy policy is that there’s enough European legislation in the exploration phase. There is very lively debate about this in the parliament. The greens are very worked up.

“We’ll only get it when all the EU member states agree.”

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