Not the new Kuwait: Poland's shale gas narratives from illusion to deception
Paper short abstract:
In 2011, data from the US Energy Administration about Europe's non-conventional gas reserves was a trigger to shale gas exploration. I examine the case of Poland, whose resources were at the core of a campaign depicting the country as a 'new Kuwait'. Four years later, little was left of that narrative.
Paper long abstract:
In 2011, the US Energy Information Administration attributed Europe's largest reserves of shale gas to Poland. This data prompted sudden interest by a number of foreign gas companies. The Polish government strongly supported shale gas exploration by supporting a neoliberal agenda centred on a socio-technical imagery of national energy autonomy from Russia, low fiscal burden for companies wanting to operate in the country, and on the image of Poland as a new energy titan, a 'new Kuwait'. Think tanks and consultancy companies in particular proposed long-term scenarios in which Poland would export its gas to the EU, while on a national scale the narrative of gas as a cleaner energy than coal, on which the Polish energy mix heavily depends, was used to defuse the 'threat' of green activism. However in the last two years fluctuating tax regimes, difficult geology, and on a lesser extent local-based protest against shale gas technologies, prompted a radical change of scenario. Most foreign companies left Poland, considering the shale gas business there unripe. Thus the 'new Kuwait' narrative propagated by the Polish media backfired, and the issue died out so quickly that in last political elections no party even mentioned it. Through a series of interviews carried out locally with representatives of oil companies, NGOs, activists and consultancy firms, I analyse the crumbling of the Polish energy autonomy dream.
Contested energy futures and temporalities in retrospective: instruments and practices of forecasting and scenario work