[media id="104005" align="left"/]Freelance journalist Dimiter Kenarov discussed the shale gas industry’s political, economic, and environmental impacts in Poland and Pennsylvania during a talk Thursday evening.
A native of Bulgaria, Kenarov began following the shale gas industry in January 2012, after he observed a resurgence of environmental movements in Bulgaria and Romania.
After the protests against fracking piqued his interest, he decided to look more closely at Poland, whose government is spearheading the shale gas movement in Europe in an effort to explore substitutes for fossil fuels.
The natural gas is extracted from underground shale sources by a process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” While shale gas quickly became a significant source of global energy, fracking has been shown to induce potentially harmful environmental effects.
For Poland, shale gas is politically significant because the country does not want to depend on Russia for fuel and other energy sources. According to Kenarov, Poland imports nearly all of its oil and two-thirds of its gas from Russia. Thus, the new shale gas industry represents an opportunity for the country to become energy independent.
In 2011, after the first well was explored, the Polish government launched “Flame of Hope,” a campaign to encourage fracking, and since then has granted 111 exploration concessions in about one-third of its territory.
“Poland has been very active in exploring wells; in Poland, shale gas is the pepper spray against the bad Russian bear,” Kenarov said.
“Initially, I wanted to look at Eastern Europe and see the effects of global industry in those countries, but because they cannot talk about environmental issues [there], I saw the U.S. as a place to pursue another aspect of the story,” Kenarov said in an interview after the talk.
In the United States, the story of the shale gas industry is far different. Fracking has been practiced since 1947 and is a well-developed industry. The United States government has also been very active in the Global Shale Gas Initiative, promoting energy sources outside of Russia and the Middle East.
Kenarov believes the high financial and environmental costs of shale gas outweigh its potential benefits.
“Shale gas requires huge economies of scale, [so] an individual country could not sustain this kind of expedition,” he said. “It has to be a decision across Europe…but I don’t see the [shale gas] industry developing on a larger scale.”