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'No shale gas revolution in Europe'

Jerome Ferrier Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "The future of gas does not depend on shale gas," says IGU president Jerome Ferrier

There will be no US-style shale gas revolution in Europe, the president of the International Gas Union (IGU) has told the BBC.

"You cannot duplicate [the US experience] in Europe," said Jerome Ferrier. "Politicians are hesitating to accept shale development."

Abundant shale gas in the US has helped domestic energy prices fall.

As a result some European governments, not least the UK, are keen to develop their own shale resources.

Mr Ferrier's comments come a day after a number of major energy firms called for a working price of carbon.

Carbon pricing

The IGU president, talking to the BBC at the World Gas Conference in Paris (WGC), said there was resistance to shale development in the UK and Poland, while there was "no way" it would take place in France.

Other countries, including Germany, Romania and Bulgaria, have placed moratoriums on fracking.

He added that it was "a pity" not to explore the possibility of shale development, but said "the future of gas does not depend on shale gas - there is enough conventional gas [to meet demand] for more than a century".

Mr Ferrier also stressed the need for a carbon price to reduce coal use, which emits huge amounts of CO2 linked with global warming.

"Without carbon pricing, countries will maintain coal power generation due to the low price of coal," he said.

Putting a price on carbon means big polluters are forced to pay for the CO2 they emit, giving them a strong incentive to reduce emissions. There has been an Emissions Trading System in Europe for a number of years but it has been ineffective in cutting emissions, largely because the price of carbon is too low.

Natural gas

Earlier this week, a number of leading energy companies jointly called for global carbon pricing, including Statoil, Total, BP, Shell, ENI and BG.

Tellingly, major US energy firms did not sign up to the initiative. Speaking at the WGC on Tuesday, Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson pointed to the fact that CO2 emissions were falling in the US despite the fact there is no carbon price there.

This fall in emissions is partly due to cleaner shale gas replacing coal. Mr Ferrier said this was not going to happen in Europe, hence the need for a carbon price.

Oil and gas company chiefs have been championing the environmental benefits of natural gas this week, arguing that it provides a cleaner source of power than coal, which currently dominates global energy production.

They say it complements perfectly the push for renewable energy, which is variable due to fluctuations in the strength of the wind and sun.

Many environmentalists argue that efforts should be concentrated on truly clean renewable energy rather than gas, which is a fossil fuel that emits CO2.

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