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Russian-funded green groups helped derail Europe’s shale gas industry: report

31.05.2023 07:30
Russia provided funding for environmental organisations campaigning against the extraction of shale gas, helping ensure that Europe never embraced this alternative resource, according to a report.
Photo:Ruhrfisch, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Europe’s deposits of shale gas were initially estimated at 13-14 billion cubic metres, much more than the deposits of “conventional” gas, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

However, the shale gas industry never really took off in Europe, due to unfavourable geological conditions, high population density and concerns about potential environmental pollution, according to PAP.

Kremlin financed anti-shale gas activists?

At the time, various green groups campaigned against shale gas, organising protests in local communities, but gradually suspicions arose that they might be steered by the Kremlin, according to analysts.

These suspicions were reported on by America’s The New York Times newspaper in 2014 and the Brussels-based Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES) in 2016, according to the PAP news agency.

However, various countries, including Germany and France, nonetheless imposed a moratorium on the exploration of shale gas, it said.

A 2016 report by the WMCES found that the Russian government had spent EUR 82 million on NGOs tasked with persuading the governments of European Union countries to stop shale gas exploration, according to PAP.

This was because “the extraction of shale gas in the EU would have been unfavourable for Russia, which relied on proceeds from supplying the EU with its own gas,” the Brussels think tank said, as quoted by PAP.

The WMCES also said the Kremlin had used various “informal intermediaries,” notably firms and individuals based in tax havens, to fund EU-based environmental groups.

This made it difficult for EU policymakers to follow the “money trail to Russia,” the PAP news agency reported. 

‘Mission accomplished’ for Russia

The policy brought Russia economic and political success, according to experts cited by the Polish news agency.

Merrill Matthews from the US think tank Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote last year: “By trying to turn public opinion and policy against fossil fuel production, especially fracking [a technique for producing shale gas], Russian oil and natural gas producers would face less competition, allowing them to charge higher prices, realize greater profits and make Europe even more dependent on Russian oil and gas.”

He added: “Mission accomplished! Unlike the United States, Europe never embraced fracking.”

Europe to return to shale gas? 

According to the WMCES’ Dimitar Lilkov, “if Europe doesn’t explore novel options for satisfying its energy needs,” including a return to shale gas, “it’ll be faced with two gruesome choices,” PAP reported.

Lilkov said: “One would be to succumb to situational pressure and negotiate for restored shipments from Gazprom. This would be a devastating geopolitical failure for the EU and a direct betrayal of the people of Ukraine.”

He cautioned, as quoted by PAP: “The second option is energy rationing, social tensions and a painful loss of economic competitiveness across the continent."

Wednesday is day 462 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, wnp.pl, thehill.com, martenscentre.eu