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Europe's Energy Supplies Are Anything But Secure

Europe has an energy problem. That has been painfully apparent as it braces for winter and potential supply disruptions of Russian gas through Ukraine loom large over the continent. Putin is now pushing for the EU to guarantee Kiev’s ability to pay for gas the winter before it turns flows back on, and in so doing is pushing on a pressure point. And, as the FT reports, Europe’s options for replacing Russian gas are quite limited:

The EU imports more than half the energy it consumes, and Russia is its biggest supplier of oil, coal and natural gas. In Europe’s capitals there is a palpable sense of déjà vu, in view of the 2006 and 2009 stand-offs between Moscow and Kiev, that held Europe to ransom.

Getting away from dependence on Russian gas will likely mean an increase in emissions as gas is supplanted by much dirtier coal, a sticking point for the supposedly green-minded bloc:

Jonathan Stern, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, says: “If you want to use less gas, in many countries that will mean more coal [usage] and you kiss your carbon dioxide emissions targets goodbye.” Renewables would need subsidies, while alternative gas imports would cost more, he adds.

What other options are there, then? Nuclear energy is an attractive option, but in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster many in Europe are reluctant to move forward with new plants, and indeed Germany is in the process of phasing out the zero-carbon energy source. Commercial production of domestic reserves of shale gas hasn’t yet taken off, due to a mix of geologic complexity, bureaucratic red tape, and staunch local opposition. Starry-eyed greens will point to renewables as an option for diversifying away from Russian hydrocarbons—Putin has no hold on the sun or wind, they’ll be quick to point out—but these sources can only serve as peak supplies. That is, due to the intermittency of wind and solar energy production, they can’t be relied upon to consistently provide a baseload amount of power, and until more effective storage technologies become available, renewables won’t be able to replace fossil fuels like-for-like. LNG is another oft-touted option for Europe, but with Asian buyers paying a hefty premium for the ship-carried energy source these days, Europe will have to pay out the nose for the privilege—something the continent’s struggling economies won’t be happy to do.

This all adds up to an undeniable truth: Europe needs Russian energy, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Putin of course understands this, and will continue to use that to great effect in his standoff with the West.


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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I’m glade to see Europe suffer, they have totally bought into the “Global Warming” hoax, and should have to suffer for their stupidity. The fact that they reject Nuclear Power which doesn’t even produce Carbon Dioxide, is proof positive that they are the biggest idiots on the Planet and deserve to freeze their asses off.

    • Pete

      You put it very succinctly.

    • larryj8

      Think of them shivering in the cold as a learning opportunity. If enough people start questioning why they must live that way, perhaps they can build the political will to push back against the more rabid Greens. As for America, I’d like to see some of the watermelon organizations (green on the outside, red on the inside) brought up on RICO statue charges. They most definitely are running a racket.

      • M. Report

        The trouble with schadenfreude is that it is a distraction
        from the suffering the US will experience after the EU
        is replaced with governments more friendly to Russia.

        • Terenc Blakely

          Given the European penchant for incompetence, who cares. If that occurs, then let Putin enjoy ‘allies’ who couldn’t pour beer out of a boot even if the instructions on how to do so were printed on the sole.

          • M. Report

            Given the degree to which the US depends on world trade,
            particularly with Europe, we will not enjoy having Putin
            in control of their trade policy.

        • teapartydoc

          We should have let the Kaiser win WWI.

  • Andrew Allison

    Germany, like Japan, is faced with a very simple choice: turn the reactors back on (and build more) or, either pollute with brown coal or be a slave to whoever is supplying its gas.

    • Pete

      It will be interesting to see which way the European elite will go.

      • M. Report

        I hear the Japanese are going nuclear, again.
        I also hear reports of positive experimental results for fusion power.

        • Terenc Blakely

          I’m all for nuclear power but fusion power has been ’10 to 20′ years away from being viable for at least half a century.

  • Fat_Man

    It is a self inflicted wound, and we should treat it as such. The European Elites will have to decide which is less humiliating, toadying to Putin or admitting the they were wrong.

    Did you know that the most southerly point in Germany is at the same latitude as Bemidji Minnesota. Right no they day is only about 10 hours long in Berlin. Two months from now it will be 7:40 long and the sun will not rise above 15° above the horizon. Not much solar energy Klaus.

    • dwpittelli

      OK, but would you think it just if we needed help in some form, and our “allies” were reluctant to help, noting that we were suffering from a self-inflicted wound (i.e., Obama)?

      • Fat_Man

        I will agree that Obama is a self inflicted wound. But, we will rip the scab off and be on our way in 2 years.

        As for getting help from our allies. I think that is not a real issue. They have all gutted their defense budgets so they can pay welfare benefits. They are really of no help at all, which is why we should dissolve NATO.

        • dwpittelli

          I agree that our NATO allies are of little use in projecting military power. But, in addition to the diplomatic advantages of having some allies who give even token support, there is the fact that we’d rather not see Russia (continue to) invade Europe. To dissolve NATO would be rather like when we pulled our troops out of South Korea in 1949 and left South Korea out of our strategic Asian Defense Perimeter, as outlined by Secretary of State Dean Acheson. If, when push comes to shove, a given invasion of a friendly country would draw us in, as has been shown 3 times in Europe in the last century, it is better that we have some soldiers there beforehand so our enemies know this for sure (as in Korea today).

  • rheddles

    We should give them a choice. Get off Russian gas or we leave Nato.

    • sabelmouse

      please leave nato!

  • motoguzzi

    Did I miss the part about the major seismic fault lines running through Europe? I am thinking that any Tsunami that sweeps through Germany would render damage caused by a reactor failure pretty superfluous.

  • Bill Befort

    Isn’t France, like, a major first-world economy somewhere in Europe? And didn’t the French decide, about the time of the first “energy crisis” in the 70s, to go nuclear in order to reduce dependence on foreign supplies? And haven’t they been making most of their electricity in nuclear plants for the past quarter-century or so, without serious mishap? So why can’t the rest of Europe do that? Why can’t the U.S.? The French experience with nuclear power constitutes as thorough a practical trial as any technology ever gets. It ought to be un-ignorable, yet articles like this seem to look right past it.

    • Tom

      Because nuclear power is eeeeeeevvvvvvvvviiiiillllllll!
      But yeah, good point. I hadn’t thought of that, either.

  • bittman

    If we allow the recently EPA regulations targeting carbon pollutants and the TRANSMISSION of power, the USA will be in no better shape than Europe. I am afraid that the electricity companies will not be able to produce and transmit the amount of power needed — let along do it at an affordable price for the middle class, the poor, and the elderly American citizens. Look at the times last winter when people in the northern states were at danger of being without power. The new EPA regulations will only make this worse. The EPA is basically regulating the Cap and Trade bill that the Democrats could not get enough votes to pass in 2010 when they held both houses of Congress.

  • fillefrans

    I think the author forgets how much Russia’s budget relies on exporting hydrocarbons. Putin can no longer afford to shut down Europe’s gas supply, he needs the currency too much.

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