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The cost of the ‘gas freedom’ campaign in Europe

Hydraulic mining has been banned in most of Europe in recent times, but as the EU cuts back on Russian gas imports and switches to US liquefied natural gas (LNG), many are placing the question is how much fuel extracted by this method will be imported into Europe.

The cost of the 'gas freedom' campaign in Europe - 1

A liquefied natural gas (NLG) production facility. (Photo: Reuters)

Unforeseen consequences for the environment

Hydraulic mining is a mining technique that uses liquid pressure to crack rock formations deep below the surface of the earth. Thereby unearthing minerals (oil, gas) which are compacted in the ground. However, this technology is still controversial.

Most EU countries have banned hydraulic mining because they think it can pollute the environment, pollute groundwater, deplete fresh water, cause earthquakes and have adverse effects on health. People.

We think we can turn to another path, but we’re still heading towards the abyss“, said Andy Gheorghiu, an anti-hydraulic campaigner, after US President Joe Biden and European President Ursula von der Leyen announced a gas deal to reduce the EU’s dependence on energy. Russian quantity.

Under the new agreement, an additional 15 billion cubic meters of LNG – much of it derived from hydraulic wells in the US – will be brought to European shores from across the Atlantic this year.

Activists fear that replacing Russian gas with LNG will not help ensure energy security and threaten Europe’s long-term climate goals.

“This agreement puts the EU and the US on the wrong and dangerous path by rapidly building new infrastructure,” said Murray Worthy, head of gas campaigns at the NGO Global Witness. to import fossil fuels into Europe. The construction of LNG import terminals is contrary to the policy of abandoning fossil fuels that the EU has long pursued.”

In addition, there are also concerns about the immediate impact on the climate from the use of LNG generated from deep underground shale deposits.

Environmental campaigners say promoting a “gas freedom” campaign in Europe could have serious climate effects because LNG has high methane emissions. The global warming potential of methane gas is 85 times higher than that of CO2 over a 20-year period, Gheorghiu noted, yet little has been done to address the consequences of the emission. methane emissions on both sides of the Atlantic.

To reduce risks to the environment, the US-EU agreement announced on March 24 carefully combined the goal of diversifying gas supplies with the goal of combating climate change. The deal aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of all LNG-related infrastructure, including promoting clean energy, reducing methane leaks and building construction, European officials said. infrastructure to produce clean hydrogen energy”. However, experts say this is not enough.

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The US is increasingly promoting LNG exports. (Photo: Reuters)

Threatening the goal of limiting Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius

On the other side of the Atlantic, Gheorghiu says, inconsistent regulations have made some US states a “Wild West” for hydraulic-driven gas extraction. For example, in Texas, methane emissions are difficult to control because they leak from dozens of production wells in the Permian basin, stretching to New Mexico state.

Researchers Amanda Levin and Christina Swanson of the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that US efforts to increase LNG production and exports could wipe out any opportunities. to limit the increase of Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.

The rapid expansion of LNG exports, they note, will stall the transition to low-carbon energy sources and make the use of non-carbon energy sources even more difficult.

The process of extracting, transporting, liquefying and re-converting LNG into gas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that an additional 130 million to 213 million tons of greenhouse gases will be emitted if the US triples its exports of LNG between 2020 and 2030. This is equivalent to adding 45 million more cells. fossil fuel cars on the road every year.

LNG difficult to replace Russian gas

Although German Economy Minister Robert Habeck traveled to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates this month to try to find more gas supply deals, analysts say limited supply and demand The increase in global gas demand makes it difficult for Europe to give up Russian gas.

The US already has traditional customers buying its existing LNG, so there may not be much left over to meet European demand. Not to mention, the construction of necessary infrastructure such as LNG import terminals takes 2 to 3 years. Therefore, the EU’s target to cut gas imports from Russia by two-thirds this year is difficult to achieve.

For climate change campaigners, fossil fuel energy is the main driver of war, so they argue that they should be phased out and replaced with renewable energy.

Global Witness expert Murray Worthy emphasized: “Investing more and relying more on fossil energy is like encouraging and pleasing the belligerents who see this as an energy system in their favor. If Europe really wants to get rid of Russian gas, the only option it has is to eliminate gas use altogether.“.

We have a historic opportunity and an obligation to choose the right way to change the way we produce and consume energy. But the solution offered by our transatlantic governments is no different from maintaining the way it isanalyst Gheorghiu commented.

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