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EU Declares Shale Gas As ‘Competitive Low-Carbon Energy’


Environmentalists have bitterly condemned a new EU research fund which invites shale gas firms to apply for €113 million of subsidies, under a programme designed to encourage ‘competitive low carbon energy’.

The Horizon 2020 research fund, which runs from 2014-2020, is intended to help identify potential environmental impacts and risks from shale gas exploitation by using satellite observation, developing models and establishing scientific recommendations for best practices.

But the monies will go to gas companies, who would otherwise have had to pay for such research themselves, and campaigners were quick to slam the new awards for contradicting bloc policy on decarbonisation.

”The Commission says that it ensures a high level of environmental protection and that it is serious about combating climate change, but at the same time it funds research for the shale gas industry. This conflict of interest cannot be ignored,” Antoine Simon a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe told EurActiv.

“It’s particularly cynical as it involves handing out public money to an industry dominated by some of the richest companies in the world where there are many more important energy efficiency and renewable energy research priorities,” he added.

The EU’s Research and Innovation directorate would not reveal which companies had applied for revenues, but said that a €33 million pot had been set aside for funding awards this year.

“Of the initial 23 eligible applications, seven will be invited to submit final proposals by the call deadline of 23 September,” an official told EurActiv. “We cannot say yet how many projects will be retained, nor who is asking for money because it is a competitive tender.”

While the Commission would prefer to limit the awards to €3 million each, it will consider requests for higher amounts, the official added.

European Council decision last December allowed Horizon 2020 funding to be given to unconventional gas and oil resource exploration and production where this was considered appropriate. The funding call was published a few days later.

Low carbon shale gas?

Shale gas was deemed to be low carbon in the programme because it “may help in the transition towards a low-carbon economy provided its air emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions, are adequately mitigated”, an EU official said. The new funding might help to do this, he implied.

But a report by the UK government’s chief scientific adviser David MacKay last year concluded that carbon emissions from shale gas were similar to those from Liquefied Natural Gas imports from Qatar.

It found that “the principal effect of UK shale gas production and use will be that it displaces imported LNG, or possibly piped gas from outside Europe. The net effect on total UK [greenhouse gas] emissions rates is likely to be small”.

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