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US Administration Pushes EU To Develop Shale, Nuclear & Clean Coal

Dave Keating, European Voice

Shale gas, nuclear, energy efficiency and CCS should all be explored, says US deputy energy secretary.

Officials from the United States and the European Union held high-level talks this morning (2 April) in Brussels to discuss ways in which the US can help Europe diversify its energy sources to reduce its dependence on Russia. The EU currently obtains 30% of its imported natural gas from Russia, the majority of which is transported by pipeline through Ukraine.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, attended the meeting with John Kerry, the US secretary of state. They were joined by Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, and his counterpart Daniel Poneman, the US deputy secretary for energy. Ioannis Maniatis, the Greek energy minister, represented member states. It was the fifth energy council held between the EU and US.

The EU’s dependence on Russian energy is thought to be influencing the bloc’s tepid response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. This issue became a major theme of US president Barack Obama’s visit to Brussels last week. Obama said that the US can increase licenses for exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to increase European imports. But without a free trade deal with Europe, the US cannot prioritise export contracts with the EU specifically. The EU is pushing for the US to increase exports to Europe in light of the geopolitical situation.

Poneman told journalists in Brussels yesterday that the EU cannot solve its energy dependence simply through increased gas imports from the US. He wants the EU to fully exploit domestic possibilities such as shale gas, nuclear, coal plants using carbon capture and storage (CCS) and increased energy efficiency. “The more countries have more diverse energy supplies, it will mean greater prosperity, greater security and a better climate,” he said.

On the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas in Europe, Poneman said: “It will be up to each country and their governments to decide how they wish to develop their resources. All I can say is that since 2000 we have gone from 1% to 40% of our gas supplies coming from fracking.”

“It has dramatically lowered energy costs, it has stimulated economic growth, it has helped restore domestic manufacturing and, let me be very clear, this is only possible if we are very good stewards of the resource and if we pay close attention to the environmental aspects,” he said. He added that the US only has the ability to export LNG now because of the shale-gas boom. He also credited the increased use of natural gas for declining US emissions.

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