June 6th, 2019
The US is now Europe’s third largest Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)
supplier and the International Energy Agency expects a further 20 per cent
increase in LNG imports by 2040.
The report from environmental NGO Food and Water Europe found
that in 2017, $84 billion went into fracking investments which helped the U.S.
produce a record amount of natural gas.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has the potential to damage both
the environment and human health according to a recent study from the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2017, President Michael Higgins signed a Bill to ban fracking in Ireland into
law after a Bill from Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony
McLoughlin received support from across the political spectrum
TheFracking Endgame report states that U.S. gas exporters are promoting the export of LNG to Europe in order to reduce the domestic supply and raise prices.
Fossil fuel lock in
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Europe,
said that the mass investment in fracking could see the “lock-in” of fossil
fuel use in the future.
“EU officials are
working with the Trump administration to enrich energy cronies for something
Europeans don’t need, and that will commit us to climate and plastic pollution,”
“On top of that, they are diverting EU public money to build these
import facilities. It won’t be the people of the U.S. or Europe that benefit; it will be
the fossil fuel and plastic industry” she said.
In Ireland, there are plans for the construction of a €500 million
Liquified Natural Gas terminal on the River Shannon.
However, the plans could be on hold for up to two years after Friends of the Irish Environment brought a case against the developers that has now been referred to the European Court of Justice.
Plastic pollution side-effect
The increase in fracking, the report state, has also resulted in an
oversupply of cheap ethane, a hydrocarbon that is present in natural gas and is
used to make plastic products.
Once ethane is isolated, it is sent to a petrochemical facility called
a ‘cracker’ plant where it is broken down into ethylene and then into
polyethylene – the most common type of plastic.
In 2018, the petrochemical industry stated it will invest $202 billion
to create 333 new facilities and expansions related to fracked gas – including
20 ethylene cracker facilities that will be used in plastic manufacturing, the
This investment is expected to drive a massive 40 per cent increase in
global plastic production in the next 10 years. The news comes as a worrying
development, the report states, as a percentage of the plastic produced will
end up in the marine environment.
When this plastic waste ends up in the sea, it not only breaks down to
release potent gases such as methane and ethylene, but also endangers marine
life that may consume or be choked by plastic.
By Marianne Foody
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