The power and influence of fossil fuel dollars over politicians and political processes never ceases to amaze. In the latest illustration of just how much sway the fossil fuel lobby has over governments around the world, the European Union (EU) is likely to divert €80 billion of funds earmarked specifically for development of innovative renewable energy sources to the development of natural gas power plants.
The U.K.’s The Guardian broke the news, basing its report on the contents of a secret document that it had seen. Ironically, the switch takes place just as EU representatives to the UN Rio+20 conference are pressing emerging market and other nations to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, fossil fuel subsidies.
Rapid growth of natural gas fracturing, “fracking,” in the US has led countries around the world to consider making use of the new drilling technology despite persistent concerns about its environmental and geological effects, the quantities of water involved and its effects on water supplies in particular. The International Energy Agency (IEA) last week released a report that predicted “a golden age for gas,” forecasting that unconventional natural gas supplies, mostly from shale gas deposits, will triple by 2036, The Guardian noted in its report.
A Major Victory for Europe’s Fossil Fuel Lobby
Natural gas prices have dropped sharply and held at low levels for several years now, pressuring and prompting closer examination of the practices of some highly leveraged shale gas fracking players, including Chesapeake Energy. That’s prompted concerns that low natural gas prices would crowd out cleaner, truly renewable energy alternatives at a time when global CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise despite best efforts to date to reduce them.
The EU governments fast one is a clear victory for the European natural gas lobby, according to The Guardian. “The insertion of gas energy as a low-carbon energy into an EU programme follows more [than] 18 months of intensive lobbying by the European gas industry, which is attempting to rebrand itself as a green alternative to nuclear and coal, and as lower cost than renewable forms of power such as wind and sun.”
Following a tried-and-true fossil fuel industry lobbying script, the natural gas lobby has been relentlessly touting estimates of shale and unconventional natural gas reserves that will almost certainly prove to be much higher than anything that’s actually produced. Independent analyses raise serious doubts about industry projections.
Already approved by EU member states, the document seen by The Guardian sets out an energy policy strategy dubbed Horizon 2020, which is touted as “a €80 billion programme for research and innovation for the years 2014 to 2020.”
“Of the funds available, more than €30 billion are supposed to ‘address the major concerns shared by all Europeans such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring food safety and security, or coping with the challenge of an aging population.'”
Then again, these funds could just as well be given to an already highly profitable, well-established and heavily subsidized fossil fuel industry. And this is in Europe of all places. It seems that the EU’s public representatives aren’t as immune to the influence of petro-dollars and the fossil fuel industry lobby as may have seemed to be the case.
“The Horizon 2020 project is likely to result in several billions of spending on R&D between 2014 and 2020, the significance of the changes goes much further, according to Brussels experts,” The Guardian writes.
“The changes show that the gas industry has succeeded in its aim of having gas considered a low-carbon fuel, at least in some parts of the European Commission – and this is likely to be disastrous for the renewables industry, as well as having massive implications for greenhouse gas emissions and the fight against climate change.”