A slowdown in Europe’s efforts to exploit its shale gas reserves, roughly 10 percent of the world’s deposits, could not come at a worse time for Europe’s companies, which are already suffering from a continental debt crisis and anemic growth and are becoming increasingly uncompetitive compared with rivals in the United States.
In America, energy-intensive industries like manufacturing and chemical production have benefited from a drastic fall in fuel costs because of a domestic energy boom in shale oil and gas. Natural gas prices, for example, have fallen by almost 67 percent over the five years, and the United States is on track to become the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.
Fuel costs for European companies, by contrast, remain roughly double those of their American competitors, while many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, are dependent on natural gas imports from Russia. Also, the Continent’s fossil fuel production has fallen steadily over the last 10 years, even as global demand rises.