According to a leaked draft (pdf) of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal seen by the Huffington Post, a key provision relating to fossil fuels would be a windfall to the natural gas industry in both the U.S. and in Europe.
Most troubling is that the preferential treatment for the industry comes at the same precise moment the world is being asked to dramatically reduce its collective emissions of greenhouse gases in order to avert climate disaster.
The Huffington Post reports:
By encouraging more crude oil and natural gas exports to the EU -- a massive economic force that uses a tremendous amount of global energy -- the proposal could spur more domestic oil and gas drilling and discourage the development of green energy in the EU, dealing a significant blow to efforts to avert climate change. Some environmental and citizens groups also object to the fracking process itself -- in which a high-pressure mixture of chemicals, water, and sand is injected into rock formations to release natural gas -- because of concerns that it might affect groundwater supplies.
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"Encouraging trade in dirty fossil fuels would mean more dangerous fracking here in the U.S. and would push more climate-disrupting fuels into the European Union," Ilana Solomon, director of the Responsible Trade Program at Sierra Club, told HuffPost. "The oil and gas industry is the only winner in this situation."
Many European leaders have made no secret that they would like increased access to U.S. natural gas reserves. At a US/EU meeting in Brussels in March ministers pressed Obama to provide better access to U.S. fossil fuel reserves as a way to counter dependence on Russian pipelines from the east. As the Guardian reported at the time:
While European access to the US shale gas revolution is currently constrained by American licensing procedures, a successful conclusion of ongoing ambitious trade talks aimed at creating a transatlantic free trade area would also hasten European access to American gas.
EU officials said they wanted the talks finished by next year while Obama pledged that he would ensure a successful pact would not entail any dilution of consumer or environmental standards under pressure from multinational corporations.