The European gas lobby annual conference, that took place yesterdayTuesday (14 June) in Brussels, was set to be a celebration of dirty business as usual.
Since last year and even more since the war in Ukraine, some of Eurogas' most prominent members including Shell, TotalEnergies and Eni have recorded historic profits thanks to soaring oil and gas prices (over $40 billion in 2021 for these three companies alone).But as millions across Europe are struggling to pay their energy bills and the consequences of climate breakdown become more visible, pressure on the sector is rising.
Total Energies' and Shell's AGMs were disrupted by activists forcing the former to be held online.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends not to invest in fossil fuels — including gas — to keep the climate from heating beyond 1.5°C, while the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres recently stated that investing in new fossil fuel production and power plants is "moral and economic madness".
Still, while measures are being taken to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas, the EU puts civil society concerns on the backburner by seemingly avoiding to construct a much-needed plan to phase out all gas — threatening to lock us into further long-term dependence on gas from other repressive regimes instead.
Through companies themselves and their association, Eurogas, the gas lobby has been pushing a narrative to promote fossil gas and greenwash its image to decision makers.
An investigation by InfluenceMap analysed 224 instances of gas industry messaging during 2020-221, and identified "coordinated narratives to green fossil gas by disassociating it from concerns regarding its GHG emission footprint, while also amplifying political concerns around security of energy supply as a bulwark against tougher regulatory action."
The report warned of the success of these efforts to weaken specific policies within the European Green Deal, finding that the gas industry was likely to achieve at least half its lobbying priorities.
And this winning streak looks set to continue in 2022.
This year, Eurogas has supported weakening the EU Commission's proposal for the taxonomy by adding fossil gas to the list of investments that should be considered "green", and called for an expanded role for US fossil gas imports, despite the threat it causes to the climate and communities living near fracking sites and export terminals. In both cases, the gas industry seems likely to have its demands met by policymakers.
The association has also failed to say whether they support the EU's proposal to move off all Russian gas by 2027 when asked by NGO Global Witness.
It is clear that the fossil fuel industry is not willing to move away from the climate wrecking fuels it built a fortune with.
"From Russia to Morocco, our trade relations are built on hydrocarbons," commented the Eurogas secretary general in 2019 in response to news of EU plans to increase energy independence, criticising it as "pulling up the drawbridge".
Corporate powers even exploit their own definition of energy security to push for even more gas and infrastructure.
Eurogas members have been amplifying the energy security argument in the context of the war in Ukraine both at national and European levels and have met several times with the European Commission to discuss the EU energy strategy.
The gas industry is pushing for more gas — nothing surprising you may think.
But when the industry's narrative is echoed by decision makers and finds its way into the European's response to the energy crisis, things become even more problematic.
Along with the recently presented RepowerEU plan to reduce dependence on Russian gas, the European Commission also announced an EU Energy Platform for joint purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen, which will also identify new gas infrastructure needs and will be advised by the gas industry. This would be a huge conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, €10 billion of Repower's planned investments have been dedicated to "missing links on gas and LNG".
Getting off Russian gas is not enough — Europe should phase out gas altogether and certainly not source oil and gas from other repressive regimes and invest in new infrastructure projects that will lock us into decades of fossil fuels.
Analysis has shown this is possible. But for this to happen, the influence of the industry on decision makers must be stopped in a similar way to how tobacco lobbyists are restricted in public health debates.
Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has mentioned the need to curb fossil fuel lobbying in its latest report.
Recent moves by the EU Commission however indicate the opposite, and a willingness to continue serving and including the fossil fuel industry: EU energy commissioner, Kadri Simson is currently on a gas lobby tour that peaked with her giving the opening statement at the Eurogas General Assembly on 14 June.
This is sending an extremely worrying message for the EU's climate ambition, and credibility to the rest of the world.
Eurogas is a considerable fossil fuel lobby power in Brussels, with nine lobbyists that hold passes to the European Parliament, and a body that has secured over 50 meetings with EU Commission officials since 2014 and holds seats in several expert groups that advise the Commission.
It's time for an end to the fossil fuel industry's access to politicians and decision-making bodies. It's time for fossil-free politics.