THERE is no reason why Ireland cannot allow companies to investigate drilling for shale gas, despite environmental and health concerns.
Head of the European Commission's climate change unit, Jos Delbeke, said there was sufficient legislation to protect the environment and that the EU had to look for alternative sources of energy, including by means of fracking.
The comments came just a week after the Government put a hold on granting any more licences for drilling by controversial hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
There will be no new licences granted until a study of the process is completed by the EPA, which is unlikely to be completed before the middle of next year.
But speaking to the Irish Independent in advance of delivering a lecture on climate change in Dublin yesterday, Mr Delbeke said that imports of cheap coal from the United States had increased and that the Commission did not want to "kill off" shale gas exploration.
"We have very few energy resources of our own, and to what extent are we going to allow to continue to be reliant on the import of gas and oil?" Mr Delbeke said.
"As the European Commission, we take a neutral line. There is legislation in terms of pollution, and we do not want to kill off shale gas. If one of the member states want to go for it, why should we stop it?"
Mr Delbeke was in Dublin for the EU presidency meetings of environment and energy ministers.