Vladimir Putin's Crimean adventures could hasten Eastern European energy independence

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Vladimir Putin's Crimean adventures could hasten Eastern European energy independence

By Mark Tapscott | MARCH 14, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing, aka "fracking," has revolutionized oil and natural gas production in America, and it looks like Vladimir Putin is boosting the technology to a similar result in Eastern Europe.

Putin doesn't intend such a result, of course, and in fact it would be greatly damaging to Russia's energy industry if that is what happens.

But Washington, D.C., isn't the only place where government actions almost always produce unintended consequences. It happens in Moscow, too.

God bless Poland

Viewing events in next-door Ukraine, Polish officials earlier this week opted to allow fracking for shale gas to go forward tax-free for the next six years.

Poland is thought to have as much as 2,000 million cubic meters of shale gas reserves, more than enough to greatly lessen the Poles' dependence upon Russian energy.

Reducing or eliminating Poland's dependence on Putin's energy oligarchs would be a major step forward toward freeing Eastern Europe from the Russian bear.

Baltic states, too

The Baltic states, especially Estonia, are also searching for ways to maximize domestic energy production in order to free themselves from Russian dependence.

Estonia is unique in the energy world in producing significant amounts of oil shale, aka "kerogen," a precursor to petroleum. Most of the country's electricity is generated using oil shale.

There is even an Estonia-backed effort to develop oil shale resources in Utah. The obstacles are environmental because oil shale is carbon-intense, and ideological, thanks to the Obama administration's opposition.

What comes next?

The Ukraine also has significant energy resources that fracking makes imminently producible. Officials there have signed deals with Shell and Chevron to make that happen.

Thanks to the liberation of these Eastern European nations from Soviet dominance, they are beginning to develop economies based on economic freedom.

Combine the profit motive with Putin's obvious imperial ambitions and the result may hasten development of energy resources that would allow Eastern Europe to tell the Russians where to shove their Gazprom.