Wishful thinking: Debunking the Myths of the Shale Gas Boom



Brussels, May 14, 2013 – The hype surrounding shale gas in Europe is founded in the American shale gas boom, where “cheap and abundant” energy appears to provide energy security. However, according to Food and Water Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe, a closer look at the US boom reveals an economic system based on shaky foundations, that side-lines health and the environment, and is reliant on unsustainably low prices driven by speculation and industry overestimates.

Experts invited to speak today at “Behind the hype: the economics of shale gas in Europe” questioned the longer-term contribution of shale gas to America’s energy mix and warned against the dangers of replicating the U.S. example in Europe. They will also illustrate that the current price of shale gas in the U.S. is artificially low and well below production costs.

The Canadian geoscientist David Hughes, following the analysis of historical production from 65,000 oil and gas wells, concluded that the average production figures for shale gas wells are already falling, as “sweets spots” in mature shale basins have been drilled off. Given the steep decline curves of shale gas wells, a “drilling treadmill”, requiring an annual investment of U.S. $42 billion per year, will be needed just to keep shale gas production flat[1].

A hard look at the historical production from American shale gas wells shows that unconventional gas cannot provide a long-lasting – never mind environmentally sustainable – answer to European low-carbon energy needs, said Food & Water Europe Policy Officer Geert De Cock. “Europe cannot drill its way to decarbonisation by 2050.

The Energy Watch Group expert Werner Zittel demonstrated that the contribution of shale gas to reduce gas imports and improve the European Union’s overall energy mix will be negligible, particularly when viewed against steep declines in European conventional gas production. Population density, shortage of drilling equipment, acute shortage of qualified personnel, stronger environmental rules and lack of public acceptability cause structural barriers for the large-scale development of shale gas in Europe[2]. 

Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The US shale gas boom is based on unsustainably low prices and wishful thinking. If repeated in Europe, shale gas development will be hindered by significantly higher costs, at a pace unlikely to impact upon gas prices. European governments should support the transition to renewable energy sources and to increase energy efficiency instead of promoting expensive, unsustainable and dirty fossil fuels”.

Food & Water Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe maintain that until the social, environmental, social and health impacts are adequately addressed, all Member States should suspend ongoing activities, abrogate permits, and place bans on new projects, whether exploration or exploitation. Europe must not be swept up in wishful thinking and replace genuine solutions like renewable energy and energy savings with the shale gas myth.


For more information please contact:

Geert De Cock, Policy officer, Food & Water Europe

Tel. +32 (0)2 893 10 45, mobile +32 (0)484 629.491, email: gdecock(at)fweurope.org

Antoine Simon, Shale gas campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe

Tel. +32 (0)2 893 10 18, mobile +32 (0)486 685 664, email: antoine.simon(at)foeeurope.org


Food & Water Europe works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups. We are the European arm of Friends of the Earth International which unites 76 national member organisations, some 5,000 local activist groups, and over two million supporters around the world.

[1] See more in Hughes’ 2013 report “Drill Baby Drill” (http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/)

[2] Read more in the 2013 Energy Watch Group report “Fossil and Nuclear Fuel – the Supply Outlook” )