“Instead of exposing their citizens to the damages of modern drilling and fracking, countries around the world should enact national bans on the practice and invest aggressively in the development of energy efficiency and renewable-energy technologies,” said last year’s report on fracking by the international group Food and Water Watch.
“The oil and gas industry is now poised to take this nightmare global,” the study said.
In the U.S., those environmental forces have had limited success. They have staged countless protests and put a great deal of political pressure on officials such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who is weighing whether to allow fracking in his state.
Those forces also created pressure that led to fracking bans in Vermont and cities including Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh. Beyond that, though, their success mostly has been limited to holding raucous demonstrations and mounting public relations campaigns.
Not so in Europe, analysts say, where the “green” movement is an effective political apparatus that spearheaded the French and Bulgarian fracking moratoriums.
“It’s more organized, more focused. They’ve been able to gain more political traction that has not been seen here,” said Kenneth B. Medlock III, an energy and resource economics fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.
“Environmental motives have been very strong, and they’ve been very successful in trying to steer not just European Union energy policy, but individual countries’ energy policies,” Mr. Medlock said.
Some already are warning that Europe may miss out on a global energy revolution if the green forces on the Continent prevail.
“Some European countries already made the decision not to go into shale gas, so naturally when they do that there will not be development,” Mohamed al-Mady, chief executive of Saudi petrochemical giant Sabic, told the Financial Times newspaper. “I think the trend you will see [is] more investors going to North America, China and the Middle East.”
As in the U.S., Mr. Medlock said, it comes down to “political geography” more than anything else. A ban on fracking in Vermont was relatively easy to achieve because the state is thought to have little in the way of recoverable natural gas.
The same holds true in a country such as France, Mr. Medlock said. For Poland and others, where fracking likely will lead to tangible energy benefits, critics will continue to have a tougher time mounting serious opposition.