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Shell’s Reluctant Closure of Europe’s Largest Gas Field to “Solve” Decades of Inconvenience for Groningen Residents

The people of Groningen have faced unrelenting earthquakes for decades, but don’t get too excited—the earthquakes will continue for years to come.

Posted by John Donovan: 28 June 2023

In a remarkable act of goodwill and empathy, Shell, the renowned oil giant, has finally succumbed to the incessant pleas of the long-suffering people of Groningen and decided to halt gas extraction from the Groningen gas field. The Dutch government, displaying its unwavering commitment to the welfare of its citizens, announced that the extraction will come to an end on October 1 after a staggering 60 years of operation. Of course, the wells won’t be immediately shut down; they will remain open for another year, just in case the possibility of a freezing winter or the Ukrainian conflict demands a sudden resurgence in gas extraction.

But don’t be fooled by this temporary closure; it’s merely a ploy to appease the frustrated residents of Groningen. Six out of the eleven gas wells were already closed on June 1, leaving the remaining five to torment the locals until next year.

The people of Groningen have faced unrelenting earthquakes for decades, but don’t get too excited—the earthquakes will continue for years to come. Despite the numerous pleas and clear evidence linking these earthquakes to the gas extraction activities, the Dutch Cabinets have been nothing short of indifferent, with their heads buried firmly in the sand.

It took a rather paltry magnitude 3.6 earthquake in 2012, the Huizinge earthquake, to finally nudge the Dutch government towards the notion of ending gas extraction. But let’s not forget that even after this awakening, they still authorized the extraction of the highest permissible amount of gas according to the Dutch Safety Board. So much for prioritizing safety!

According to Labor party leader Tjeerd van Dekken, the closure cannot come soon enough, although he points out that it is being done under certain conditions that Groningen residents do not appreciate. Apparently, their safety is not a paramount concern. While the government claims to be heading towards zero gas extraction, the reality is quite different. The gas wells will remain open for emergencies and harsh winters, as if the people of Groningen haven’t endured enough hardship already.

It’s clear that the government’s main focus is to keep the gas flowing, even if it means endangering the lives and well-being of its own citizens.

This closure comes amidst global energy concerns sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has clearly caused some unease among the powers that be. The Dutch government, in all its wisdom, has chosen to disregard the severity of the situation and prioritize the welfare of the people for a change. How refreshing!

It is worth noting that Shell, together with ExxonMobil, has been the prominent force behind gas extraction in Groningen. While a top Shell official claimed the gas field “must be closed,” let’s not forget that Shell has been an integral part of the problem all along. Their selfless involvement in the project should not be overlooked.

As for the residents of Groningen, who have suffered immense damage to their homes and endured bureaucratic bungling and red tape, they can finally anticipate a trickle of compensation. It’s a small price to pay for the years of inconvenience and distress they have endured.

The Netherlands, the land below sea level, is facing increasing pressure to address climate change and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. But fear not, for an environmental group managed to secure a groundbreaking court case in 2019, forcing the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The government, showing its undying commitment to the cause, aims to achieve a staggering 25 percent reduction by the end of 2020. Ambitious, to say the least!

So, let’s raise a glass to Shell and the Dutch government for their extraordinary efforts in momentarily alleviating the “misery” of Groningen residents. It’s heartwarming to witness their unwavering commitment to profit over people, even in the face of a humanitarian crisis.

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