Europe now has so much natural gas that prices just dipped below zero for the first time in almost two decades, but a lot of people are getting nervous about where the gas is going.
So, after more than two years of discussions of how new supplies of shale gas – a key fuel for power generators and a potential boost to the domestic energy market – will be consumed, the European Commission launched a new “action plan” on Wednesday to support the industry and make it safer to use this fuel in Europe in the future.
“It’s a very encouraging moment,” said Joaquín Almunia, the European commissioner for climate action who worked on the plan with his Italian “partner” and “colleague” Federica Mogherini. “This is actually a good moment. We have a very good plan on the table and we want to see that the new gas plants we need are constructed.”
And there’s more to come. Almunia’s action plan also aims to establish a “coordination mechanism” in which countries will pool their national expertise in order to boost safety in the industry. And he’s hoping that over time the EU can also create a new market for liquefied natural gas “which would be the ultimate solution.”
Those are just a few of the big ideas that are at the heart of the plan. And, although Europe’s energy companies want to see them implemented, there are plenty of skeptics out there and a good reason for that.
The debate: What Europe needs is investment
So why worry about the safety of the industry, the safety of gas pipelines, the safety of the environment or the safety of future generations?
Well, Europe should worry. It needs a serious rethink. “There is no free lunch when it comes to energy,” said Almunia.
After all, the gas boom is a boom for Europe: Europe’s power sector, which is largely coal, accounts for over 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, compared to just over 20 percent in the US.
All that growth threatens to blow up the carbon market in Europe, as many see it, and as we