The Foil to Russian Energy Stranglehold (Part 2)

As mentioned in my earlier post, Russia’s foreign policy strength relies on its control of the natural gas that supplies Europe.  Unfortunately, this control allows for Russia to exert their influence and will over many issues, as seen with Crimea.  European fracking has the ability to change the landscape of political power between Europe and Russia.  Germany is one of the largest importers of Russian gas and is struggling with rising energy prices, making it significantly difficult for them to wane themselves off of Russian energy.  Where Germany is struggling with moving towards shale exploration and extraction, Poland is embracing fracking with open arms.  This past month, the Prime Minister of Poland signed a tax freeze on special taxes that used to be in place on the shale industry.  Both Britain and Poland are the leading proponents to allow for fracking.  The EU recently released guidelines on fracking instead of banning it, which is favorable for England and Poland in their hopes to employ fracking.

While I believe that fracking offers the European countries a way to reduce their reliance on Russian gas, there are many other factors that the EU and countries needs to take into consideration.  The projected reserves for shale gas and oil is often seen as an imperfect measure.  Poland’s project shale reserves have recently been revised significantly downward.  Many of the companies that Poland awarded exploration permits have abandoned Poland due to exploration and extraction not being commercially viable.  I believe though that these companies will soon be back.  The increasing natural gas prices due to global warming and Russian aggression will soon raise the price high enough that Poland’s shale reserves will become economically viable.  Another issue that many opponents of fracking have in Europe is that it will ruin the environment and destroy the English countryside.  Unfortunately, this again becomes a question of how much people value the environment.  How high will natural gas prices have to rise before the EU gives the green light to begin fracking.

Shale gas, while not environmentally friendly, looks to be the next global energy boom.  As prices in Europe continue to rise, it makes sense that Europe would look to take advantage of the large shale reserves that are present in Europe.  Africa looks to be the next continent to look towards shale energy with its large South African reserves, projected at 390 trillion cubic feet.  At this point, I believe that African shale extraction and exploration will come about more quickly than Europe due to the low regulation in Africa.  As of now, it looks like natural gas will be the next big energy supplier until renewable, green energies become more cost efficient.  The ability for Europe to become less reliant on Russia is extremely important for energy security in the future.  Unfortunately, economists project that it will take 4 years to a decade once for Europe’s shale boom to reach the same level as the US.  It took the US 25 years to reach the shale energy boom that we are now experiencing.  With the innovations that the US has come across with fracking, I believe that it will take Europe and Africa a lot less time to reach the shale boom.  Once Europe can stop relying on Russia for natural gas, it will be free of Russian influence through Gazprom.