DG Environment director of strategy,Robin Miege, said that although shale gas could be  a “game-changer” in the United States, condition in Europe were rather different although with Europe’s energy prices over twice the US levels, unconventional fossil fuels are climbing higher up the European policy agenda. The results of the public consultation on Europe’s shale gas prospects, which were presented by the Commission’s environment directorate on 7 June, showed that over half of the respondents were favourable to the development of shale gas in Europe.

According to Mr. Miege , potential benefits of European shale gas production are mostly diversification of the EU’s energy mix, energy security, with possibilities in re-negotiating with gas suppliers, but “the effect on prices is not necessarily going to be major”.

A majority of respondents to the public consultation indadicated that the main potential benefits of shale gas were indeed decreasing the EU’s energy import dependency costing 1 bln a day, and strengthening the EU’s negotiating position with external suppliers. Over 50% of those questioned also believed that shale gas would make energy cheaper for consumers.

However, numerous analyses of the potential impacts are more cautious. Unconventional gas production costs in Europe are likely to be two times higher than in the US, according to a study by the International Energy Agency as there are geological and geographical differences between the US and Europe, as well as much a higher population density. In addition a less developed gas infrastructure in some countries and environmental consequences of fracking could result in higher costs as well (photo: Getty images).