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Is Shale the Answer to Europe's Energy Problem?


Europe’s green policies have put it in the unenviable position of paying more money for dirtier energy. By subsidizing nascent green technologies like solar and wind, Europe has driven its electricity prices up sharply. At the same time, it’s started importing coal, a dirty energy source, from the US (we no longer need as much coal thanks to the shale boom). Writing for the FT, the CEO of Italian energy giant Eni has a suggestion for Europe’s policymakers—start drilling for shale gas:

So what can we do about this? One idea would be to look for – and then exploit – shale gas in Europe. We may have quite a lot of it – for instance in France, Germany and the UK. But to produce it we need a public consensus – and there is still a lot of opposition in western Europe…But if Europe is serious about creating wealth and jobs, it is an option worth exploring.

The writer goes on to suggest that the UK’s fracking experience could have larger implications for the continent’s energy future:

The country that is furthest along the road to consensus-building is the UK, which can count on political will, tax incentives and even a blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury. If it does manage to create a healthy shale gas industry, it could pave the way for continental Europe to follow.

While it’s true that Europe has plenty of shale gas, extracting it won’t be as easy as America has made it seem for a number of reasons. And shale energy alone won’t be enough to counteract the growth-constraining green policies currently in place across much of the continent. If Europe wants to get back on track and become attractive to industry once again, it’s going to have to peel back its bad policies and come up with a good strategy to get at its shale.

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