No need to ban fracking - EU
Brussels - The European Union's top official on climate change said on Friday there was no need yet for the bloc to ban shale gas drilling - a controversial practice on which attitudes are split within the bloc.
"I would not be inclined toward a moratorium based on what I have heard so far," EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters in Brussels.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of drilling into shale rock and injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock at high pressure to release gas inside.
Environmentalists say the process can contaminate groundwater, among other issues. Following protests, the practice has been banned in France.
Poland, on the other hand, is a major proponent of the technology, arguing that the extra resources it could release could make the EU less dependent on gas imports from Russia and other foreign suppliers.
Hedegaard said the EU "cannot afford to say no" to a technology which is still at a very early stage of development, and stressed the technical challenges still to be overcome before it can be applied on a wide scale.
In Poland, experts predict that shale gas production could start in about 10 years.
Hedegaard was speaking as EU carbon dioxide (CO2) emission figures for 2010 were released, which showed a 2.4% annual increase after a 7% drop the previous year.
This was due to the EU economy rebounding after the 2009 recession and higher heating demand due to a colder winter, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said in a statement.
Despite the setback, the EU is overall still on track to meet its CO2 reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, but Austria, Italy and Luxembourg were exposed as falling behind their national commitments.
The EEA warned the three laggards that they "should make more efforts to ensure compliance".