fracking protestGov. Andrew Cuomo has again put off the decision on whether to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in New York. The famously cautious Cuomo has to weigh public opinion that is split down the middle. A Siena College poll found that  Forty-five percent support and 42 percent oppose fracking in the Southern Tier.

A continent away in Poland, there is no fractured opinion about fracking. The Polish people are energized that shale gas development could liberate them from dependence on Russia’s natural gas.

Dimiter Kenarov, a freelance journalist, reported:

Ever since the U.S. Department of Energy’s April 2011 announcement that Poland may hold enormous quantities of shale gas -- 5.3 trillion cubic meters, enough for 300 years of consumption -- hydrocarbon fever has swept the country. Even when the Polish Geological Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey reduced those figures by 90 percent in early 2012, the faith in shale remained unshaken. Nowhere else in Europe has shale gas generated so much enthusiasm among both politicians and the public. The government has already granted 111 exploration concessions on an area of 35,000 square miles, or about a third of the territory of Poland, while polls from last year suggest that 73 percent of the country’s nearly 40 million people back developing shale.

Kenarov recently spoke at the University of Pennsylvania. The discussion was hosted by the Wharton Energy Club. He said the European Union is split on hydraulic fracturing. Poland is at the epicenter of the “polarized debate.” Poland may “make or break the case for Europe.” Indeed, “all eyes are on Poland as it develops its shale gas industry.”

Kenarov observed that shale gas is a game-changer. It is a “complicated topic with a lot of players.” There are far-reaching geological, economic, environmental and geopolitical implications.

Currently, Poland does not have any commercial production of shale gas. Instead, development is at the exploratory stage. Kenarov noted that in contrast to the U.S., landowners do not own mineral rights so they would not receive royalties. Still, the Polish people support diversity of energy supply and independence from Russia.

The United States shares their high hopes. The State Department’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program provides assistance to help Poland assess its shale gas resources. Our shared interest in natural gas and energy security was highlighted during President Obama’s visit to Warsaw in May 2011.

Fast forward to the 2013 State of the Union address. Obama made it clear that shale gas is also a game-changer for the U.S.:

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

Meanwhile, the debate over fracking rages in New York. It remains an unanswered question whether the Empire State will get in the game.