Gas fields in Groningen must remain up and running, a government-owned gas organization advises. They say uncertain gas supplies will otherwise leave the Netherlands in the cold. But, a Groningen-based activist says it compromises people’s safety.
On the 31st of January, Gasunie Transport Services (GTS) advised the cabinet that “the capacity of all current production locations of the Groningen gas field is necessary to guarantee a security of supply.” GTS is the government-run company responsible for managing and operating the national transmission of gas in the Netherlands.
Over the years, Groningen has long been the source of gas in the Netherlands, but this has come with dire consequences. It has led to earthquakes that have left many citizens with damages, a lot of which has only recently been compensated by the government.
As a result, there have been frequent calls to put an end to the extraction of gas in Groningen. But, with the war in Ukraine and no more Russian gas, the GTS argues that under the current circumstances we cannot go without.
“All of Europe has to deal with gas shortages and is taking measures to eliminate these shortages as quickly as possible,” they wrote in their letter.
“Gas companies will always be gas companies”
“It’s evidence of the fact that there are still gas companies who are willing to jeopardize the safety of people living in Groningen’s earthquake areas,” says Willem van der Sluis. He is part of Fossil Free Culture NL (FFC), a collective that combines climate activism with art.
He says that “this is pretty much a confirmation of what we have always been saying.” FFC has been known to criticize cultural institutions across the country for being sponsored by various oil and gas companies.
“We see that as art-washing,” referring to ways in which companies attempt to distract others from their bad practices by using art. In October and November of last year, the Groninger Museum showcased an exhibition called KLEUR! (color) sponsored by Shell. FFC responded by editing their promotional posters to say “TRUE COLOURS?”.
Van der Sluis thinks these companies are hiding behind a progressive green narrative, but he believes “gas companies will always be gas companies.”
The Netherlands’ Green Party, part of the parliamentary opposition, has been vocal about wanting to do away with the extraction of gas altogether. They say to invest more in clean energy and repairing the houses of those affected by earthquakes in Groningen. The Green Party, including its youth division, could not be reached for comment.
Based on the advice of the Gasunie and other parties, the Dutch cabinet will decide what to do with Groningen’s gas fields in June.
“My starting point remains that I want to close Groningen’s gas fields in October, or at the latest October next year,” says State Secretary for the Extractive Industries Hans Vijlbrief.