Blog Posts

April 25th, 2017

The Food & Water Europe Team Grows!

By Tina Callebaut

I recently started an internship of six months at Food & Water Europe and I am the newest addition to the small international Brussels-based team. During my first week I got to know the team a little better, I was given a tour around the ecologically renovated office building Mundo-B (which we share with 60 other NGOs) and I was introduced to the many issues Food & Water Europe is working and campaigning on. There was (and still is) a lot of information to take in, not to mention the many acronyms involved: PCI’s, RES, CEF, SGC, TAP, ECI, etc.… But I can only be very grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received in this small Spanish-Austrian-German working family.

How did I end up at Food & Water Europe? I have always been very passionate about the environment and politics. I am especially interested in how we can urge politicians to employ effective regulatory provisions and policies promoting sustainable development and governing environmental protection. This is the reason I decided to study law, with a focus on environmental law, at the University of Ghent (Belgium), my hometown. In my master thesis I assessed regulatory frameworks and policy initiatives for the extraction of shale gas and analyzed the way the process is governed in the European Union and four of its Member States (Belgium, UK, France and The Netherlands). Before coming to Food and Water Europe I briefly worked in a law office, but working for an environmental organization and campaigning against climate change had always been on the top of my list. So when I saw the opportunity, I didn’t need a lot of time to think about it.

During my time at Food & Water Europe I will be working – among other things – on a hydrocarbons toolkit, a legal toolkit for activists who want to fight gas or oil extraction projects. The toolkit will list all of the European environmental and other regulations local governments and project promoters will have to comply with before and during their projects. The toolkit will allow local activists to quickly assess whether any European regulations have been violated during the permitting process or during the extraction stage of the project, and which procedural steps they can take to fight it. I will be working on this toolkit together with The Good Lobby, an organization that partners up volunteer experts with NGO’s. The toolkit will be ready soon. Stay tuned!

March 21st, 2017

Spain, A Country Full of Manure

 

By David Sánchez

Over the last few decades, small- and medium-scale farms raising livestock have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, pigs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. Uncontrolled agribusiness power and misguided public policies have pressed livestock producers to become significantly larger and to adopt more intensive practices, which come with a host of environmental and public health impacts that are borne by consumers and communities.

Spain and its pork meat industry is a clear example, as we expose in a new report released today. Spain is the third largest exporter of pork after China and the United States and has the largest pig population in the EU—over 28 million animals. Production and exports are growing as a result of high industry consolidation and low production costs. But that means that the industry is getting concentrated in just a few hands, with the number of farms diminishing rapidly and farmers getting squeezed in the process. Between 1999 and 2013, 180,000 pig farms disappeared in the country, with a massive impact in rural communities.

Read the full article…

March 6th, 2017

Blog: Celts Oppose Fracking While Dragon Ships Bring U.S. Fracked Gas

By Andy Gheorghiu

In a historic vote at the beginning of this year, Ireland opted in favour of a law that will make the green island the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels. This goes even further than the decision by the 2015 decision of Norwegian parliament to divest the country’s sovereign wealth fund from dozens of coal-related investments.

And it’s not the only clear movement of the Celtic Tiger towards a much needed post-fossil future. On October 27, a bill calling for a fracking ban passed its first hurdle in the Irish House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann). In the meantime, Irish officials have also decided to undertake a public consultation on the provisions of this bill together with the Joint Research Programme on the Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on the Environment and Human Health, led by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.

On top of that, Northern Ireland has opted for planning legislation to put a halt to fracking. The current Strategic Planning Policy Statement states that “in relation to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction there should be a presumption against their exploitation until there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts.“ However, since this wording is still pretty weak in view of the overwhelming evidence for the negative impacts of fracking on the environment, public health and the climate, only a clear and permanent ban on fracking will ensure the protection of the people and wonderful landscape of Northern Ireland.

At the same time, Scots are also moving – hopefully – towards a permanent ban on fracking. In 2016, the Scottish parliament narrowly voted in favour of a ban. Looking at the ever growing evidence of the negative impacts, the decision of the Scottish parliament was nothing but a consequent follow-up-vote on the announced moratorium from January 2015. While the vote of the parliament is non-binding, the government nevertheless felt the need to act:  In January 2017, the Scottish Government started a four-month consultation on “the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland“. This is a crucial step in our united fight to ban fracking everywhere in the world. We all can help and support the Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign by taking action and telling the government why fracking should never be allowed to go ahead in Scotland.

Dragon Ships Bring LNG From the US

But while the Celtic nations are rightfully and consequently moving forward in their attempts to put an end to this absurd debate over whether fracking serves anyone but the frackers themselves, so-called “dragon ships” loaded with fracked hydrocarbons continue to regularly penetrate the Scottish shores.

INEOS, a chemical company still partly based in the tax-haven of mountainous Switzerland, started in September 2016 to ship fracked liquified natural gas (LNG) from the Marcus Hook Terminal of Pennsylvania to the Grangemouth petrochemical plant in Scotland. The main shareholder of INEOS, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, is not only proud to have brought the union Unite to its knees over pension and payment cuts at his self-proclaimed “Battle for Grangemouth,” but he has been a major lobbbyist for fracking and shale gas in the UK and beyond. Crossing the Atlantic with the “Shale Gas for Europe” slogans on the Chinese-made Dragon Ships, INEOS apparently doesn’t care about the negative impacts on the people and the environment in Pennsylvannia, where the fracking fever for the Dragon Ships and others rages.

The last few years of the European fracking debate have been driven by the absurd argument that we need fracking to “free European citizens“ from their dependence on Russian gas. Now comes the INEOS “fracking fun factor“ into play: The realization that the fracked hydrocarbons from the US are shipped across the Atlantic to use them for petrochemicals and plastics.

Food & Water Watch – our mother NGO – has recently uncovered in detail how fracking supports the plastic industry, which has reaped under-the-radar benefits from the environmentally destructive fracking boom. Unfortunately, as we all know, plastics production is inherently wasteful—and much of that waste ends up in our oceans and surface waters. A 2015 study estimated that nearly 200 coastal countries generated over 600 billion pounds of plastic waste in 2010 — and between 11 and 27 billion pounds of this ended up in the oceans.

No wonder that a recent survey found out that plastic – mainly in the form of small pellets called nurdles – are found littering 73 percent of 279 UK shorelines. According to the environmental charity Fidra and its Great Nurdle Hunt project, Scotland’s “beautiful coasts and the delicate marine environment that surrounds it are under serious threat from plastic litter”. It’s also no wonder that the Great Nurdle Hunt map shows that the unique Forth of Firth, where the petrochemical plant of Grangemouth is located, is at risk from plastics and toxins. Furthermore, scientists have also found that about 15 percent of puffins, endangered birds which are Scotland’s natural treasures, have plastic in their stomachs.

It’s time to stop this absurdity once and for all. We don’t need more plastics, petrochemicals or fracked hydrocarbons. What we do need is fresh air, clear drinking water and an intact environment.

A fracking ban in Ireland and Scotland sounds like a very rational step in the right direction – much more rational than shipping fracked hydrocarbons over the Atlantic to generate plastic that will finally turn the same ocean bit by bit into a cesspool.

I bet the old Celts would have told us the same.

February 27th, 2017

How the EU Is Supporting European Dependence on Gas

By Frida Kieninger

On 17 February, the EU Commission published the outcome of the call for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a financing tool with the aim of supporting “the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital services.” We had a deeper look into the funding instrument’s impact on energy infrastructure and found that the CEF fails to ensure efficient, and even more so, sustainable interconnections.

Since its creation in 2014, the CEF has provided €1billion to support gas projects, while electricity projects received only around €532million. These numbers are contrary to the declared CEF objectives of allocating the majority of its funds to electricity projects, and the EU-Commission’s own perceived need for Europe to invest further €140billion in electricity and “only” €70billion in gas infrastructure

Read the full article…

February 6th, 2017

Fracking, Health and Regulations: What the EU-Commission is (NOT!) doing about it – Part II

By Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger

(Part I)

DG Environment from the EU-Commission seems to have its hands bound and is largely unable to protect Europeans from health hazards caused by fracking. There are a few initiatives such as the Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) or the EU platform for chemical monitoring data (IPChem), but these are far from leading to binding legislation aimed specifically at unconventional gas production.

However, the Commission just recently published a review concerning the effectiveness of its non-binding “Recommendation on shale gas and fracking, which was adopted on January 22, 2014.

Read the full article…

February 3rd, 2017

Fracking, Health and Regulations: What the EU-Commission is (NOT!) doing about it – Part I

By Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger

In November 2016, the EU-Commission organized a “workshop on public health impacts and risks resulting from oil and gas extraction.Behind this title are mainly questions around fracking and a hesitant attempt by the Environment Directorate General (DG ENV) – historically the most supporting part of the Commission concerning environmental issues – to find out more about its impacts on public health.

Scientists from the U.S. and Europe, as well as industry representatives and NGOs, had their say at the workshop. While the public health impacts of oil and gas extraction though fracking in the U.S. have been analyzed in several studies, most were sponsored by the oil and gas industry and are seriously biased towards its interests. Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of evidence that fracking negatively affects public health, as confirmed and acknowledged by this compendium of scientific, medical and media findings.

However, authorities still think that there is a lack of data. This is mainly due to the public’s dependency on industry to obtain information about fracking chemicals, injection mixtures, amounts, and due to the absence of much needed baseline studies, measuring indicators before hydrocarbon production.

Read the full article…

January 27th, 2017

Rick Perry, Gas Exporter-In-Chief?

By Peter Hart (reposted from Food & Water Watch)

In 2011, former Texas governor Rick Perry counted the Department of Energy among the government agencies he would eliminate as president—until he famously couldn’t remember the department’s name during a Republican debate.

Naturally, the very same Rick Perry was tapped by the Trump administration to run the Energy Department. And according to the New York Times, Perry accepted the job thinking that it had quite a bit to do with oil and gas drilling. While that would have been especially convenient to his corporate backers, Perry has by now discovered that most of the Department of Energy’s work concerns nuclear weapons and government scientific research facilities.

Read the full article…

January 26th, 2017

2017 – Food & Water Europe Is Ready To Stand Its Ground

By Andy Gheorghiu, Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez

Many people said 2016 was a bad year. And there were many reasons: the result of the US elections, Brexit, or the high toll of environmental activists that were killed for standing for their communities around the globe. We don’t know what 2017 will look like, but we are sure that we want to be ready for some of the challenges we will find for our food, our water, our climate and our democracy. Together, we need to make 2017 a better year. And united we will have the power to do so!

Read the full article…

January 19th, 2017

Dutch Gas Extraction and “Gas Quakes”

By Frida Kieninger

Image of home damaged by earthquake.

Propped up home destabilized by several smaller and medium earthquakes close to Uithuizen, Groningen

Many homes in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium are heated with gas from the Netherlands. Along with a few smaller gas fields, the Groningen gas field supplies around 15 percent of Europe’s gas consumption.

In 1959 the Dutch oil and gas company NAM surprisingly discovered a huge gas field – the tenth biggest gas field in the world and the largest in Europe. Over the years, NAM produced around 1700 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in the Groningen fields and estimates that there are around 1000bcm left underground.

In the seventies, gas production was highest and peaked with over 80bcm of gas produced in 1976. It rose again significantly in 2013, and many people living in and around the gas fields also have an explanation why: Before 2013, the magnitude and the frequency of earthquakes rose and the damage could no longer be ignored. Given that the earthquakes are unmistakeably linked to large scale gas extraction in the region (even Shell and ExxonMobil acknowledge that), the operating gas companies knew they would soon be limited in the amount of gas they could extract and went all out to extract the then fixed maximum possible amount of gas of 53bcm – probably for the last time.

Read the full article…

November 17th, 2016

Part II: Reform of the Emissions Trading System — Nothing but patches on a broken system

By Frida Kieninger

foodandwatereuropeoncarbonemissionsIn part one of this blog, I referred to the obvious inefficiency of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). While the ETS is praised to be the key element of the European climate policy, it fails to deliver and is less efficient than other factors such as energy prices and the overall tendency towards more sustainability.

The danger of an inefficient system — so big that it covers around 45 percent of the EU`s greenhouse gas emissions — is its potential to cancel out existing and future policies at the EU and national level that would really contribute to emission reductions. Ironically, this results in the ETS doing potentially more harm than good in the fight against global warming.

Read the full article…

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