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Unconventional oil and gas: signs of a system in crisis

The mid-term fate of which fuel will drive Europe might be decided by an answer to this very simple question: are the French and Bulgarian victories in the fights against shale gas and fracking the start or the end of a battle against moving into the exploitation of ‘unconventional oil and gas’ exploitation? A battle is clearly brewing. Despite causing two minor earthquakes, gas fracking just received the green light for use all over the UK. Meanwhile, a draft report on shale gas, which is currently being discussed in the European Parliament, promotes the expansion of shale gas developments in Europe. But that does not mean that will be able to pass it without a fight. In response to this report, more than 40 civil society groups (Friends of The Earth Europe, Food and Water Watch Europe, Greenpeace, Attac France, and many others) have just released a common statement to call on member states of the EU to suspend existing “fracking” projects and ban new ones. After the different activities on these issues held in Marseille during the Alternative World Water Forum this an important new step forward in building an international coalition against shale gas and fracking projects. Explaining dozens of convincing arguments – from soil, water and air pollution to creating earthquakes and severe health impacts – and referring to Articles 35 and 37 of the Charter on Fundamental Rights , and other treaties, the coalition comes to the conclusion that the development of unconventional gas or oil within the EU runs counter to EU Treaty obligations.

And it’s not just Europe where the debate is getting hot. Unconventional gas drilling and oil exploration are emerging as one of the most controversial energy & environmental conflicts around the world today. In the report Fracking the Future, the focus is on how unconventional gas is threatening our water, health and climate – globally. EJOLT recently also wrote on the rising problems with unconventional oil in Canada. Off-shore drilling is also increasingly controversial, with not just the huge BP oilspill but problems in Brazil and the North-Sea as well. So how many more disasters do we need before we see the sillyness of moving to unconventional oil and gas – all the while destroying our climate in the process.

The picture that emerges is one of a collapsing fossil fuel economy that desperately tries to hold on by moving into ever more dangerous territories. Which is eerily similar to the ever more complex financial instruments invented to keep our essentially bancrupt financial system afloat, with the crucial difference that the destruction created by the expansion into unconventional oil and gas is likely to be even more devastating than the collapse of the financial system. Homo sapiens does not need paper money or a bank for pure survival – but it does need drinkable water and a good health. The move from oil and gas in the more dangerous territories of deep oceans or urbanised area’s is not only worsening an already grave climate change crisis, it is making an additional, direct and much more drastic attack on the very resources we depend on for our survival. We’ll need whatever is left of our democracy, in combination with engaged scientists and informed activists to simply forbid companies to move into any destructive unconventional oil and gas, while working on unconventional alternatives for our fossil fuel economy.

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