Europe’s Plan to Wean Itself off Russian Gas Just Might Work


In 1970, West German politicians and gasoline executives signed a landmark take care of the Soviet Union that might form the following half-century of European power coverage. West Germany promised to provide the USSR with metal pipes, whereas in trade the USSR would prolong a gasoline pipeline to the border of West Germany and begin pumping Soviet gasoline beneath the Iron Curtain and into Western Europe. The commerce deal was one type of Ostpolitik—a wider coverage of thawing relations between the USSR and West Germany that might earn then West German chancellor Willy Brandt the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.

Brandt—who died in 1992—could not have imagined simply how intertwined the 2 former enemies would change into. By the point of German reunification in 1990, gasoline from the USSR accounted for more than 30 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption. By 2021, Russia was supplying round 40 % of the European Union’s pure gasoline, with some smaller international locations, reminiscent of Latvia, nearly fully reliant on Russia for his or her provides. Germany, with its heavy metal business and gas-powered heating, relied on Russia for just below half of its pure gasoline.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 uncovered deep fissures within the EU’s power coverage. After EU sanctions on Russia, the Russian state-controlled power agency Gazprom introduced it was slashing gasoline exports via one in every of its principal pipelines to about 20 percent of capacity. The share of Russian gasoline getting into Europe has dropped to fifteen %, squeezing already-inflated costs to new highs. Within the UK, which is delicate to gasoline costs on worldwide markets, common power payments are projected to succeed in almost four times their January 2019 ranges.

“It is very important acknowledge for the EU that growing this dependency on Russia has been a coverage failure,” says Ganna Gladkykh, a researcher on the European Power Analysis Alliance. The continent is now going through two challenges. First, a chilly winter—or a number of—with gasoline provides stretched to their restrict, might imply forced blackouts and business shutdowns. Second, Europe should cut back its dependence on Russian gasoline, placing new offers with totally different suppliers and stepping up its renewable rollout. On the finish of that street, Europe could discover itself in a brand new period of power safety—now not reliant on an unpredictable neighbor to the east, however with new dynamics that will deliver their very own issues.

However first: the crunch. In late July, European Union member states agreed to reduce their gas demand by 15 percent between August 2022 and March 2023. The measures are voluntary, however the EU Council has warned that they could be made necessary if gasoline safety reaches disaster ranges. Some international locations have already taken small steps to restrict power demand. Cities in Germany are switching off public lighting, decreasing thermostats, and shutting swimming swimming pools so as to cut back dependence on Russian gasoline. France has banned outlets from operating air-conditioning whereas doorways are open, whereas Spain—which doesn’t import a lot Russian gasoline—now prohibits air-conditioning from being set to lower than 27 levels Celsius (80 levels Fahrenheit) in public locations.

Pure gasoline is utilized in three main methods: for producing electrical energy in energy crops, for heating houses and workplaces, and in industries like steelmaking and fertilizer manufacture. Though there are options to gasoline in energy crops—German chancellor Olaf Scholz has raised the opportunity of extending the lifetime of nuclear power plants so as to reduce down gasoline utilization—it’s a lot tougher to search out options to gasoline for business and heating. The EU additionally has guidelines that defend households, hospitals, faculties, and different important companies from gas-rationing measures.

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