While shale gas fracking is revolutionizing America's energy picture, it is having a much tougher time getting started in Europe.
The Economist has published a map detailing fracking's progress across Europe. The shaded peach areas represent known shale gas basins. The red crossed circles show countries where fracking has been banned. The empty green circles show where it is allowed and the green circles with a "P" show countries where permits have been issues.
Since only five nations - France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria - have banned fracking outright, it might seem that development would be making headway. However it is not. Most countries still have an infrastructure problem and lengthy bureaucratic rigmaroles. Poland encouraged ExxonMobil to explore its basin but the company left after a few unsuccessful test wells. As soon as the Ukraine started negotiating with oil companies, the Russians billed the country $7 billion, saying the Ukrainians had contracted for gas but had not accepted it.
Even in countries such as Britain, where officials are ostendibly welcoming fracking, the pace is extremely slow. "It may take five years to assess whether shale gas exists in commercial quantities, another five before production starts and then a few more before shale could provide a significant addition to supplies," says The Economist. "[I]in short, a fracking long time." In short, other countries simply don't have the freewheeling, free-enterprising economy that powers the United States.