EU seeks to reduce dependency on Russian gas

Draft summit documents call for increase in 'fracking' in Europe and higher investment in energy industry

Draft summit documents call for increase in 'fracking' in Europe and higher investment in energy industry

BRUSSELS – Europe will try to formulate ways to reduce its "concerning" level of dependency on Russian natural gas, at the EU March 20-21 summit in Brussels, according to draft summit documents.

"The European Council is concerned about Europe's high energy dependency rates, especially on gas, and calls for intensifying efforts to reduce them, especially in the most dependent member states," the papers state.

Renewable energy investments should be increased and local energy sources such as shale gas should be further exploited, they also state.

“Europe needs to diversify its energy supply and increase energy efficiency,” the documents said.  

Russia is the EU’s biggest energy supplier, exporting natural gas, oil and coal which in total provide 22 percent of Europe’s energy.

The other main natural gas suppliers are Norway, which supplies 29.4 percent, Algeria at 13.8 percent, Qatar at 8.7 percent and Nigeria, which supplies 3.4 percent, according to Eurostat, the European statistical authority.

-'Paralyzed' Europe 

Europe currently imports 30 percent of its natural gas from Russia, compared to nearly 50 percent in 2007. 

However the amount varies greatly among EU states. Countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden import all of their consumed natural gas from Russia.

Gas storage amounts among European countries are at their highest levels in history due to the mild winter.

Germany has enough natural gas to meet about 60 days of demand, while most Central and East European countries have enough to last for 1-3 months.

However, Germany’s decision to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 has increased its dependency on Russian gas.

Poland’s President Donald Tusk said on Monday that the high volume of energy trade between Germany and Russia posed a problem for Europe’s sovereignty, and requested that Germany immediately revise its financial policies to prevent Europe becoming “paralyzed” against Russia.

-'Fracking' warning 

Meanwhile, Poland enacted a law on March 11 which exempts taxes on shale gas exploitation.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated Poland has 5.4 trillion cubic meters of shale gas reserves.

However, Polish officials have said their calculations show only 800 billion cubic meters exist and energy companies like Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil have subsequently suspended investments in the country.

The European Commission has loosened regulations on shale gas.

England and Poland were the first EU member states to begin shale gas exploitation by distributing licenses to private companies.

Environmental organizations say shale gas extraction - also known as "fracking" - can trigger earthquakes and pollute water sources due to the hydraulic fraction processes used by the industry. 

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