CEU Professors Present at World Bank Institute on Bulgaria’s Shale Gas Ban

The rapid development of shale gas in the U.S. is prompting other countries to develop their own shale gas resources. From June 2–3, CEU professors Andreas Goldthau and Michael LaBelle presented their research on Bulgaria’s ban on shale gas at the World Bank Institute in Washington D.C. The invited audience assembled for the World Bank Institute Learning Symposium on Governance of Unconventional Gas: Exploring How to Deliver Transparent Benefits in Non-OECD Countries. The Bank brought together academics, legal professionals and NGO representatives from across business, the public sector, international organizations, civil society, universities, and think tanks. The main purpose was to facilitate exchange and learning across those sectors, in one of the most important energy sectors for years to come: shale.

Associate Professor Andreas Goldthau of the Department of Public Policy and Assistant Professor Michael LaBelle of the CEU Business School and Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy presented their article titled “Governance of Unconventional Gas in Bulgaria: From Exploration to Bust,” which appears in a special edition of the journal “Oil, Gas and Energy Law Intelligence,” edited by Dr. Philip Andrews-Speed of the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore.

Goldthau and LaBelle identify two factors dooming shale gas development in Bulgaria. The first was political maneuvering of the prime minister to stay in power, while the second was the highly centralized decision-making structure of the state, leaving local authorities and citizens highly distrustful of any government initiatives. The findings indicate a strong need for professional state administration in the area of geology and oversight of the energy sector. The politicizations of the energy sector, perceived corruption, and the lack of qualified and trusted state institutions resulted in a strong distrust of state efforts to protect the environment or to contribute to the country’s economic development. Bulgaria’s ban on shale gas can be partially attributed to a strong protest movement that resonated with wider social and political discontent, ultimately extending Bulgaria’s near total reliance on Russian energy sources. The fate of Bulgarian shale gas therefore offers broader lessons on the governance of shale gas, for Central Eastern Europe and beyond.

The special “Oil, Gas and Energy Law Intelligence” edition titled, "The Governance of Unconventional Gas Exploitation Outside the United States" is available here (by subscription): http://www.ogel.org/article.asp?key=3463.