MEPs vote down motion to exclude new gas infrastructure from EU support

Published by Felipe Wasserstein on

February 21st, 2018

MEPs today voted against a motion to block the inclusion of major gas infrastructure projects in a list of projects which could qualify for streamlined planning and financial support from the EU.

The projects are part of the EU`s Projects of Common Interest (PCI), which are key infrastructure projects designed to link the energy systems of the EU State members.

They are supposed to support the EU`s policy and climate goals, by offering cheap, safe and sustainable energy to citizens.

However, the PCIs list contains more than one hundred gas infrastructure projects to be built in Europe, including the controversial Shannon LNG proposal in Ireland.

Shannon LNG

The Shannon LNG proposal intends to build a gas terminal on the Shannon Estuary and import liquefied natural gas (LNG), most likely from the US fracking industry.

Fracking is used to extract onshore natural gas from areas rich in shale rock. It involves the pumping of a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals, and sand into the rock to create openings so that gas can seep out into deep wells.

The Shannon LNG project continues to have its planning permission extended, and its currently waiting for a buyer to takeover and fund it.

The process of exporting gas as LNG requires an energy-intensive process of transporting, purifying, and cooling it into a liquid via a network of pipelines and export terminals from where it is shipped overseas on tankers as long as 275 meters.

The Shannon LNG proposal runs contrary to Ireland`s decision to ban onshore fracking, which was signed into law last year by President Michael D Higgins, due to its harmful and damaging effects.

Other Gas Projects on List

The PCI list also includes projects such as the Southern Gas Corridor which has been linked to the violation of human rights in Azerbaijan, and the MidCat pipeline among France and Spain, which has been the target of growing protests.

According to Friends of the Earth Europe, the EU has awarded €1.3bn of subsidies to PCI-backed gas projects in the last four years.

“Gas is a dangerous fossil fuel which emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases,” said extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, Antoine Simon.

“The Commission would be wise to take note that the era of unquestioning support for gas is over – and focus on delivering a clean fossil free energy transition,” he added.

“Opposition to gas projects is growing fast all around Europe – from Ireland to Croatia, Sweden to Italy, from Spain to Estonia. New gas projects would only help to create a fossil fuel lock-in in Europe, which we absolutely cannot afford if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change and go fossil free.”

Campaign group Not Here, Not Anywhere deliver petition to Minister of Environment in September to ban oil and gas exploration Photo: Niall Sargent

 Nine Years of Fossil Fuels Left

According to a 2017 study commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe, the EU won`t be able to depend on fossil fuels, including natural gas, in the near future.

The study discovered that EU State members can afford only nine more years of fossil fuels at today`s rate if they want to keep to a maximum temperature rise of 2C.

The findings show Europe`s urgency in shifting to an energy system that is free of fossil fuels, especially if the EU wants to respect the Paris Climate Agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, the EU will limit global warming to below 2C, and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C.

For a limit of 1.5C, fossil fuels would have to be phased-out at an even faster rate, according to the study.

The report concludes that there is “categorically no role” for bringing additional fossil fuel reserves, including gas, into production.

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Felipe Wasserstein

Felipe is studying for an MA in Journalism and Media Communications from Griffth College Dublin. He is passionate about the environment, history, and cinema.