It was the poor relation on the agenda for the May 22 European Council meeting, and not without reason: whereas tax evasion and avoidance, which topped the bill for the summit, costs Europe close to €1trn per year, the expense incurred by the Old Continent’s dependence on imported fossil fuels amounts to “just” €388bn per year.

In spite of all of this, the 27 member states throughly discussed the issue of energy supplies. Faced with an economy that is barely growing, they are hoping that cutting energy bills will put an end to the decline, and restore the competitiveness of Europe’s companies. Fascinated by the example of the United States, whose recovery has been boosted by cheap energy, notably sourced from shale oil and gas, and terrified by rises in electricity prices, they have set their sites on a threefold target: one which will guarantee reasonable prices for customers, cut the bill for imports, and ensure sustained domestic production. And, of course, all of this will be achieved without compromising commitments on the reduction of CO2 emissions.

In their bid to achieve this miracle, member states will not only have to look beyond their national interests — and energy is one field where Europe’s 27 member states always prioritise national interests — but also undertake massive investment in “green” energy, thermal energy plants and infrastructure for routing raw materials and electricity. According to Herman Van Rompuy, all of this will require “no less than €1trn by 2020”. A trillion euros… Well, well, well.

At the same time, as the President of the European Council pointed out at the press conference following the summit, that European countries “could also develop safe and sustainable ways to tap other resources – conventional and unconventional.” And yes, “this includes shale gas, which could become part of the energy mix for some member states.” Some, like the United Kingdom and Romania, have not waited for the European Council to embark on the exploration of the enormous reserves of unconventional hydrocarbons, whose use remains controversial because of their long-term impact on the environment, which could be tapped by Europe. And that is precisely what industry is demanding.

However, before turning their backs on the ambition to play a pioneering role in the post-oil world, which, after all, was prompted by a lack of indigenous resources, if they want to offer companies a real advantage in terms of energy, member states could cut taxes on power bills: In the United States, there are no taxes on electricity for industry, while EU companies are obliged to pay an average of one centime per kilowatt-hour.