Tough standards expected for shale gas

  • 2013-05-29
  • From wire reports

NOT THE WORST: Connie Hedegaard says that shale is better than coal, but worse than renewables.

VILNIUS - The priorities of the EU climate policy and other relevant environmental issues were discussed last week at the meeting between the members of the Seimas Committee on Environment Protection and Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, reports ELTA.

The European Commissioner talked on a most pressing current issue under discussion in the Seimas, namely, legal regulation on shale gas. She said that it is up to each EU member state to decide what energy sources to use, be it fossil fuel, nuclear energy, shale gas or renewable energy sources. Shale gas, in her view, would be a better option than fossil carbon, but a significantly worse option than renewable energy or improved energy efficiency. Lithuania has a huge potential in the latter sphere. The main obstacle to the development of shale industries in Europe is a high population density. In addition, experts have informed the European Commission that shale gas in Europe will never cost as cheaply as it does in the United States.

Hedegaard reminded the audience that the European Commission is going to develop legislation this year that sets forth the basic requirements (including environmental) for potential investors to meet before making their decisions.
Both Hedegaard and Janez Potocnik, the European Commissioner for the Environment, spoke out for binding obligations on member states to meet high environmental standards during the process of extraction of shale gas.
To the question posed by the Committee on Environment Protection regarding the possible harmonization of subsidies for renewable energy at the EU level, the Commissioner responded that this proposal was under discussion in the EU institutions. Decisions on the matter will be made after 2020 because of the need to take into account and evaluate the progress of some countries in this regard.

With reference to nuclear energy, the Commissioner said that this was also a matter for the member states to decide individually. Nevertheless, a country like Denmark, which she represents, would never build a nuclear power plant. Denmark, unlike some other EU member states abiding by high environmental standards, incinerates waste. Of course, the Danes sort and recycle waste before incineration, where possible. There is not a single municipal waste landfill in Denmark, said Hedegaard.

On May 22, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius met with Hedegaard. The prime minister welcomed constructive cooperation between the European Commission and the Lithuanian government, and discussed policy priorities for climate change with the Commissioner.

“Lithuania certainly welcomes the Commission’s efforts to devise the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies, designed to stimulate long-term investment in the infrastructure, which would ensure security of energy supply, stability and availability of prices for energy resources. Other objectives include maintaining competitiveness in the industry and drawing investment to low-carbon economic development, which would lead to creation of jobs and economic growth,” said Butkevicius.

According to the head of the government, the Ministry of Environment is examining the climate change-related information. Lithuania says it is necessary to consider the issue of mainstreaming climate goals across economic sectors, such as energy, industry, transport and agriculture.
The prime minister added that the Lithuanian EU Presidency would pay substantial attention to preparations for the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, to be held in November.

Among other issues discussed at the meeting were Lithuania’s EU Presidency priorities aiming at a credible, growing and open Europe. The Commissioner added that climate change policies were in direct relation to these three priorities.