No Trump in Brussels, No Fracked U.S. Gas in Europe

We’ll be at a big anti-Trump march in the capital of Europe on the afternoon of 24 May, where we will show Trump that Europeans do not welcome the man whose policies threaten American and European communities as well as our global environment and climate.

By Frida Kieninger

On 24 and 25 May, U.S. president Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to take part in the NATO summit. We’ll be at a big anti-Trump march in the capital of Europe on the afternoon of 24 May, where we will show Trump that Europeans do not welcome the man whose policies threaten American and European communities as well as our global environment and climate.

We must stop fracked U.S. gas already heating (up) Europe

As much as most Europeans despise the new president of the United States, some of them are already using fossil gas from the U.S. for their energy needs or for petrochemical production. A total number of eight gas cargoes from Sabine Pass Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in the Gulf of Mexico have already been shipped to Europe, namely Portugal, Spain and Italy.

While there is no free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S., gas exports are possible, albeit with longer waiting times and only if deemed “in public interest”. This alleged public interest is not properly defined and the fact that all over America, communities suffer from the effects of gas extraction shows that claiming gas exports are in the public interest is highly cynical.

And political decision makers in the EU ought to know better. The EU-COM/Ecorys Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment report on TTIP  hightlights that the expansion of US LNG imports could “impact the human right to health, and human right to a clean environment” and that it “could further stimulate fracking in the US, which has a negative environmental impact in its own right.” Finally it refers to the EIA 2015 Annual energy outlook, stating that emissions of methane along the supply chain will dent the environmental credentials of gas unless action is taken to tackle these leaks.

In a recent visit to the United States, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for the European Energy Union, met the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment chair, John Barasso, and talked about future exports of U.S. gas to Europe. A large part of the gas destined for export is shale gas, extracted with fracking. Šefčovič clearly expressed the wish that the U.S. reduce the existing barriers to export gas. This is clearly outdated at a time when the EU has ratified the Paris Agreement, but also other arguments show that intensifying gas export makes no sense for either side of the Atlantic.

U.S. gas not a reliable source of gas supply diversification

While LNG terminals to import gas from all over the world are planned in several European Member States, there are many reasons to doubt whether U.S. gas can be considered a reliable source of energy. In its report on the EU strategy for LNG and gas storage, however, the European Parliament explicitly mentions Australian and U.S. gas as expected to boost European energy security.

Taking into account U.S. gas production numbers, realistic estimates of future production and the planned amount of gas to be exported, it becomes clear that there is something wrong with these expectations: In a letter to Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) expresses a warning that Trumps “America First” pledge is not compatible with planned LNG exports. The U.S. Department of Energy has approved applications representing 70% of the United States’ 2016 demand. Add exports to nations with which the U.S. has no trade agreement, such as the EU, and the equivalent of almost the entire U.S. gas demand would be destined for export. Moreover IECA highlights that:

  • Estimates of tecnically recoverable resources are highly uncertain, particularly in emerging plays where few wells have been drilled; and
  • The U.S. Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG) provides misleading information regarding the abundance and certainty of natural gas reserves. IECA has deleted Alaska resources because lower 48 consumers do not have pipeline access to those resources. Even though some states have placed a moratorium on fracking, CLNG has not excluded those resources.

S&P Global Platts estimates nonetheless that gas exports from the U.S. to Europe will reach 96 billion cubic metres by 2020, which represents almost a quarter of European gas demand in 2016. These numbers seem clearly oversized and just in line with the notorious tradition of overestimating gas demand. Already, U.S. manufacturers fear negative implications of this export frenzy. They warn against energy price raises and depression of real wages, while the devastating impact that raising exports alone would have on American communities and the global climate are beyond any justification.

Moreover, overly optimistic predictions about the abundance of gas reserves in the United States have proven wrong several times, and are likely to lead to a misguided export enthusiasm with little certainty behind these assumptions.

To us, it is clear that not only should gas exports be halted as soon as possible, but also the production of fracked hydrocarbons has to stop. We have just a few years left to move away from dirty fossil fuels and avoid runaway climate change. We have to leave fossils in the ground and make the necessary changes now.