What could be the most important thing that could happen for European shale energy this year? This is going to be hard to beat:
SUPPORTING SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF UNCONVENTIONAL DOMESTIC NATURAL GAS RESOURCES
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to coordinate the efforts of Federal agencies responsible for overseeing the safe and responsible development of unconventional domestic natural gas resources and associated infrastructure and to help reduce our dependence on oil, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. In 2011, natural gas provided 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Its production creates jobs and provides economic benefits to the entire domestic production supply chain, as well as to chemical and other manufacturers, who benefit from lower feedstock and energy costs. By helping to power our transportation system, greater use of natural gas can also reduce our dependence on oil. And with appropriate safeguards, natural gas can provide a cleaner source of energy than other fossil fuels.
In Europe, as in the rest of the world, Barack Obama's influence cannot be underestimated. Notice how deathly silent Josh Fox has gone in the US since the State of the Union address.The same will happen here. Opponents won't be going in to local councils in Europe and getting much traction from beating up on the POTUS, and shale supporters now have a valuable ace up the sleeve in his support of shale.
A key problem in the US has been how shale often degenerated into a Republican good/Democratic bad issue. Shale is much more important than that.There have certainly been some Republican opponents at the local levels and Democratic enthusiasts at state and national ones. What people have missed is that the old politics of right wing Texan hydrocarbon libertarianism may feel comfortable home on the range, but simply won't wash out there in the rest of the world. As US politics degenerates into battles based on right or left wing purity instead of rationality, shale ended up getting caught in battles where it didn't belong. Opposition to shale especially became a sort of entry requirement into the left after Gasland.The key scene in that movie wasn't flaming taps: it was the spurious connection to Dick Cheney.The narrative was that if you didn't see Josh Fox as the Woody Guthrie de nos jours, you were an oil company stooge. If you read the New York Times or Huff Post or MSNBC then you had to buy into a belief system frozen from the days of John D Rockefeller through HL Hunt through George W Bush to Aubrey McClendon. Those views stated that the hydrocarbon industry was automatically the enemy of progressive politics as much as the right saw supporters of any kind of regulation as a bunch of communists.
Here in Europe, because politics itself is more grown up, shale politics is even messier. Until now the only allies we have had in Europe have been on the right.James Delingpole for example is 100% spot on about shale, but absolutely barking on most else. Nigel Lawson loses hundreds of thousands of potential supporters of shale each time he opens his mouth.But similarly,progressive politics as epitomised by the Guardian and Independent newspapers in the UK or the Greens have fallen into a US style Gasland extremism. Like shale? Then you're a gas company lobbyist sitting in the naughty corner with the Tories The Lib Dems and Labour sit on the fence.That's just in the UK.
It's not so much that space forbids discussing shale politics in Ireland or France or the Netherlands, more like that life is too short; it's that complex. But overall it's going to be difficult for The Guardian or Liberation or The Irish Times or Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as the BBC or FR2 or RTE or RAI to sell shale as an extreme American oil company plot when we can whip out this Executive Order. My US readers may not be convinced but Obama has done a great service for European acceptance.