Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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Foot on the gas - lobbyists push for unregulated shale gas

Oil and gas companies from the United States and across Europe are targeting Brussels in an all-out campaign to prevent EU-wide rules for the developing shale gas industry. No legislation has been proposed, but there has already been intensive lobbying in the European Parliament and Commission, with industry funding reports, advertisements and websites, designed to show that shale gas does not pose a threat to the environment or to public health, and to promote the fiction that it is a green source of fuel. This report maps out the lobby players ahead of vote in the European Parliament on the need for regulation.

Unnoticed by the general public, one of the first European shale gas wells was drilled in Poland in 20091. In the USA, where the shale revolution originated and has been well underway since the mid-2000s2, a heated debate about the topic was already raging. It is not only a debate about inflammable tap water, energy security, global climate change and gas prices, but also one which lays bare the entangled web between industry and politics.

This debate has now reached Brussels, where the European Parliament (EP) and other EU institutions have been besieged by the big players from the oil and gas industry. ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Statoil, Shell, PGNiG, Total, OMV and co. are not only trying to downplay the devastating environmental and social effects of shale gas development, but are also seeking to brand gas as a climate-friendly energy option for a low-carbon future.

Avoiding a regulatory framework for shale gas at the EU level is at the top of the industry's wish list. Backed up by their government, Polish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are trying to paint a rosy picture of shale gas development, hoping for more energy independence from Russia.

This report maps corporate lobbying in the current battle around shale gas in the EU. The European Parliament is expected to vote later this month on two reports on whether shale gas should be regulated, marking the end of the first round of the lobby battle in Brussels.

Shale gas and hydraulic fracturing

The term unconventional gas generally refers to shale gas, but also includes tight gas and coal gas (coalbed) methane. Shale gas is natural gas trapped in shale rock formations, which makes it hard to recover. The exploitation of these resources has only become possible thanks to the combination of two technologies: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In order to extract shale gas, an enormous quantity of water containing chemicals is pumped into the well, in order to “frack” or fracture the shale bed and push the gas to the surface3.

Most of this toxic cocktail remains underground where it poses a potential danger to the water table. The rest flows back as waste water which can be contaminated with radioactive substances, depending on the local geology. Shale gas is therefore a lot more harmful to the environment than conventional natural gas4.

In Europe, Poland and France have the largest estimated shale gas resources, and the UK, Sweden and Germany are thought to have significant reserves5. Yet there is general agreement that Europe is unlikely to experience the kind of boom seen in the US, which has become a net exporter of gas due to shale gas exploitation. European resources of unconventional gas are seen as at best compensating for the decline in conventional gas production, limited in part by the different geology, legislation and also by higher population density6.

Read the full report here

French translation available here

Unnoticed by the general public, one of the first European shale gas wells was drilled in Poland in 20091. In the USA, where the shale revolution originated and has been well underway since the mid-2000s2, a heated debate about the topic was already raging. It is not only a debate about inflammable tap water, energy security, global climate change and gas prices, but also one which lays bare the entangled web between industry and politics.This debate has now reached Brussels, where the European Parliament (EP) and other EU institutions have been besieged by the big players from the oil and gas industry. ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Statoil, Shell, PGNiG, Total, OMV and co. are not only trying to downplay the devastating environmental and social effects of shale gas development, but are also seeking to brand gas as a climate-friendly energy option for a low-carbon future.Avoiding a regulatory framework for shale gas at the EU level is at the top of the industry's wish list. Backed up by their government, Polish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are trying to paint a rosy picture of shale gas development, hoping for more energy independence from Russia.This report maps corporate lobbying in the current battle around shale gas in the EU. The European Parliament is expected to vote later this month on two reports on whether shale gas should be regulated, marking the end of the first round of the lobby battle in Brussels.Shale gas and hydraulic fracturingThe term unconventional gas generally refers to shale gas, but also includes tight gas and coal gas (coalbed) methane. Shale gas is natural gas trapped in shale rock formations, which makes it hard to recover. The exploitation of these resources has only become possible thanks to the combination of two technologies: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In order to extract shale gas, an enormous quantity of water containing chemicals is pumped into the well, in order to “frack” or fracture the shale bed and push the gas to the surface3.Most of this toxic cocktail remains underground where it poses a potential danger to the water table. The rest flows back as waste water which can be contaminated with radioactive substances, depending on the local geology. Shale gas is therefore a lot more harmful to the environment than conventional natural gas4.In Europe, Poland and France have the largest estimated shale gas resources, and the UK, Sweden and Germany are thought to have significant reserves5. Yet there is general agreement that Europe is unlikely to experience the kind of boom seen in the US, which has become a net exporter of gas due to shale gas exploitation. European resources of unconventional gas are seen as at best compensating for the decline in conventional gas production, limited in part by the different geology, legislation and also by higher population density6.Read the full report hereFrench translation available here 1. International Energy Agency: Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas. World Energy Outlook. Special Report on Unconventional Gas, May 2012, p. 124, available at: www.worldenergyoutlook.org/goldenrules/#d.en.27023 2. Kefferpütz, Roderick: Shale Gas Fever: Replicating the US gas revolution in the EU?, CEPS Policy Brief No. 210, Brussels, June 2010, p.2, available at: www.ceps.eu/book/shale-fever-replicating-us-gas-revolution-eu 3. Friends of the Earth Europe: Unconventional and unwanted. The case against shale gas, Brussels, September 2012, available at: www.foeeurope.org/foee-unconventional-and-unwanted-the-case-against-shal... 4. Food and Water Watch: Fracking: The new global water crisis, Washington, March 2012, available at: www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/fracking-the-new-global-water-crisis-e... 5. International Energy Agency: Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas. World Energy Outlook. Special Report on Unconventional Gas, May 2012, p. 124, available at: www.worldenergyoutlook.org/goldenrules/#d.en.27023 6. International Energy Agency: Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas. World Energy Outlook. Special Report on Unconventional Gas, 2012, p. 120-130, available at: www.worldenergyoutlook.org/goldenrules/#d.en.27023
 

It's almost six months since EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete claimed to have negotiated an historic global deal to tackle climate change at COP21in Paris. The 3 May also marked a year and a half of Cañete being in the job. However, he and his his boss, Vice President of the Commission Maros Šefčovič, continue to give privileged access to fossil fuel players trashing the climate, who have enjoyed eight meetings to every one involving renewable energy or energy efficiency interests since the Paris deal was signed. Rather than a change of direction, it's business as usual for the European Commission following the Paris Agreement, which is great news for Big Energy but a disaster for those serious about tackling climate change.

In the middle of May over 4000 people from all over Europe gathered in the Lusatia region in Eastern Germany. The plan? To block a Vattenfall-owned opencast lignite mine.

In light of the ITRE Opinion and forthcoming discussion on the proposed Directive to reform the Emissions Trading System (and “enhance cost-effective emission reductions and low-carbon investments”), CEO offers comments. 

Ultimately, revisions of this sort are nowhere near enough. The new ETS Directive requires some "damage limitation." But it is also a time to reflect on the need to move beyond emissions trading at the heart of EU climate policy. There are many ways to achieve this: http://corporateeurope.org/climate-and-energy/2014/01/life-beyond-emissi...

A revised Emissions Trading Directive is like red meat for the hungry pack of lobbyists that work the corridors of Brussels’ political institutions. Even minor differences in how pollution permits are handed out can result in profits or savings of millions of euros to big polluters.

The Commission is set to announce its proposal for a new ‘mandatory’ lobby transparency register next week. During the Summer, the Commission made public the input it received via consultation on the topic. Besides a general call from public and civil society to boost transparency systems, they also showed corporate lobby groups and trade associations’ spin, promoting transparency values while recommending limited implementation, loopholes and toothless management.

CEO's immediate reaction to the latest revelations from the team behind the Panama Leaks.

The European Commission is about to propose a regulation on acrylamide, a dangerous contaminant formed in many starchy foods when cooked at high temperatures. But the regulation itself consists in referring to codes of best practices developed by lobby groups representing the food industry.

A new report on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) reveals how the trade deal could make EU member states vulnerable to costly lawsuits from North American investors that threaten public interest.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour