Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Tuesday, 20 November 2012

MEPs divided over shale gas use

MEPs have been deeply divided over the possibility of shale gas extraction as a way of boosting Europe's energy supplies.

On 20 November 2012 the European Parliament debated reports by the Industry and Environment Committees, that say that national governments should have the choice on whether to exploit shale gas but that national and EU legislation needs to be sufficiently strict.

Gas trapped in shale rocks can be extracted through a process known as hydraulic fracking.

Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Much of the water used in fracking is collected from the well and processed, but there are concerns that potentially carcinogenic chemicals can sometimes escape and find their way into drinking water sources.

Shale gas is an increasingly common form of energy supplies in the US, and Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said this had contributed to far lower energy costs in the US than in the EU.

He added this led to a reduction in the need for gas imports from countries like Nigeria, reducing transportation costs and environmental emissions.

However Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter said shale gas extraction would "destroy the future of mankind".

"This gas has no future," he concluded.

But the position of those MEPs opposed to shale gas extraction was criticised by Polish conservative MEP Konrad Szymanski who said it could lead to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

"Why don't the greens see that?" he questioned.

The reports were formally adopted during the daily voting session on 21 November 2012.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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