Opponents are winning the Dutch shale gas war

Support for extracting shale gas from under the Netherlands is fading and an increasing number of local councils are taking a stand, the Financieele Dagblad reports on Tuesday.

So far, 33 of the country’s 400 local authority areas have declared they are opposed to shale gas extraction, the paper says. Some 170 councils are thought to be sitting on shale or coal gas reserves.

The Netherlands’ shale gas reserves could run into billions of euros but it is unclear if the gas will ever be extracted because of the well-organised opposition, the paper says. In addition, national politicians are staying out of the debate, pending the results of a major report into shale gas extraction.

Controversy

Shale gas is ordinary natural gas that has been trapped in dense shale beds. It is extracted using a controversial process known as fracking, which involves drilling a hole deep into the shale and pumping in water mixed with sand and chemicals. This opens up tiny fissures in the rock allowing the gas to escape where it can be captured. The technique is controversial because of the risk to underground water supplies and surface pollution from the water and chemical mix.

‘We want to develop as an energy location but only if it is sustainable, and not through fossil fuels and absolutely not through unconventional gas sources,’ Adries Poppe from the Noordoostpolder council told the paper.

The paper points out that national government can still overturn local council objections and press ahead with shale gas extraction.

For example, it forced through the construction of a huge wind farm near Urk and was prepared to do the same on plans to store CO2 underground near Barendrecht, before doing a u-turn in the face of massive local opposition.