By Daniel Stroe - BucharestRomania will not exploit its shale gas reserves in the next five years, but beyond this point it will have to ensure its energetic independence, as well as the Republic of Moldova’s, Romanian PM Victor Ponta said amid a flaring debate in the country on the impact of shale gas extraction which saw sporadic bouts of violence.“For now and for the next five years, Romania will not exploit a single cubic meter of shale gas. Secondly, when I look at the European map and I see all our neighbors – except for Bulgaria which has probably made a political and not necessarily a technical decision – have issues shale gas exploration licenses. Over the next five years, Romania has to come up with the most modern and performing environmental legislation so that, if in five years we are going to start the production, we shall have all the guarantees” Ponta said in an interview for the stat radio broadcaster.He added the controversial topic of shale gas production has to be placed in the broader context of energetic independence Romania is seeking. “Things are simple here: if we don’t have internal production gas, we buy it from Gazprom (the Russian company) since there is no other producer in the region to sell us. But I believe that both for Romania and the Republic of Moldova energetic independence is an important objective so that all the ways, I repeat, in keeping with the highest environment standards, we can have these resources, from the Black Sea, anywhere else in Romania, we have to use them, not to kick them away, so that we no longer depend on the Russian gas” Ponta, who opposed to shale gas extraction while in opposition a few years ago, pointed out.Romania has shale gas reserves of about 1,444 billion cubic meters which, judging by the average annual consumption of 14 billion cubic meters, can ensure the country’s gas autonomy for about a 100 years, reveals a report of the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).But exploration works in the country, especially in the Vaslui County, were met with severe protests from villagers, forcing the American company Chevron to halt the activity for a couple of times. In Bucharest, anti-shale gas marches have also been organized, following successful protests against a controversial gold mining project which was halted amid public opposition.Romania imports about a quarter of the gas it currently uses, making it one of the least dependent countries in the region on Russian gas. The conventional gas reserves the country currently gas are said to last for the next 10 to 15 years at the current rate of consumption.