Geopolitics of gas in Europe

16.09.2021

The rise in gas and electricity prices would have surprised Europe with gas reserves at historic lows (60%) and would have staged the resounding failure of the energy policies of a European Union incapable of achieving utopian energy self-sufficiency.

The energy island of the European Union

One of the factors that most affects a country's energy dependence is the amount of oil and gas that it must import for industry and transport, the European average being 52% and Russia being the main supplier of gas, oil and coal. of the EU (with 42%, 33% and 26% respectively), it follows that the EU would be an energy island and would suffer from a severe Russian energy dependence. Driven by high energy dependence (more than 50%), the high volatility of oil and gas prices due to destabilizing geopolitical factors and the urgent need to guarantee a secure supply of energy, the EU implemented an energy strategy based on the preferential agreements with Russia and Algeria for the supply of gas, in the use of obsolete nuclear power plants instead of atomic reactors of new generation EPR (European Pressurized Water Reactor) and in the extraordinary boost of renewable energies (1st world producer), with the unequivocal objective of achieving self-sufficiency in energy and water resources by the horizon of 2,030.

Likewise, the ambitious European Program on Climate Change was approved on the horizon of 2030 (Triple 30), with the commitment to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30%, improve energy efficiency by another 30% and achieve that 30% of the energy consumed comes from renewable sources, together with the Reorientation of the Transport of land goods through the new Motorways of the Sea and High Speed Railways through the imposition of ecological rates on road transport and vehicles without an ECO label. However, according to Marie-Helene Fandel, analyst at the European Policy Center, "the EU's energy policy suffers from a high dependence on the outside due to its scarcity of resources and its limited storage capacity" which, together with the inability of Twenty-seven to develop a true common energy policy will slow down the entire process and make the utopia of European energy self-reliance unfeasible on the horizon of 2030, of which the recent escalation in gas and electricity prices in Europe would be a paradigm.

European conundrum

Algeria exports its gas through three gas pipelines: two Algeria-Spain (one of them going through Morocco) that are not connected to the European network and a third Algeria-Tunisia-Italy. After the crisis in Ukraine, EU leaders have established as a priority the need to improve the gas connection with the Iberian Peninsula through a gas pipeline that would connect Spain with France through Catalonia (the Midcat gas pipeline) through which Spain would reach the European energy network the gas from Algeria, (equivalent to half that which comes from Russia through Ukraine), a project that would have been in limbo due to the myopia of European regulators and that would have made it impossible for Algerian gas to be the European alternative to Russian energy dependence.

The Nabucco West gas pipeline project designed by the US to transport Azerbaijani gas to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and thus avoid the Russian energy dependence of the EU failed as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have leaned towards the Russian project of the South Stream gas pipeline and after Azerbaijan finally withdrew from the project in June 2013, the alternative route of the trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP, Trans Adriatic Pipeline) was chosen, through which Azerbaijan will export its gas to Europe through Greece, Albania and Italy but that it can only transport a third of the Nabucco project, so it does not pose any threat to the interests of Russia.

On the Russian side, in 2007 it presented the South Stream gas pipeline project, a 39,000 million dollar gas pipeline that would run through Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy and which was to begin construction in June 2014 guaranteed the supply of Russian gas. to the EU avoiding the passage through the unstable Ukraine. Thus, after the gas crisis in the winter of 2006 and the supply cuts that occurred in countless EU countries (80% of the total gas that the EU imports from Russia passes through Ukraine and supplies more than 70% to other countries). such as the Baltic countries, Finland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic), but this project will sleep in the limbo of dreams after Bulgaria's refusal to participate in it due to the pressure received from the United States.

The Russian-German coalition of interests devised the Nord Stream project that connects Russia with Germany via the Baltic Sea, with a maximum transport capacity of 55,000 million cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year and with a duration of 50 years. This route is considered vital for Germany and the Nordic countries, which is why it was declared of "European interest" by the European Parliament but disastrous for US geopolitics and crucial for Russian energy geostrategy. Thus, this route would close the Russian energy clamp by discarding the Baltic Republics and Poland as transit territory, also discarding the Clintonian-affiliated BTC pipeline. Russia will thus achieve its dual geostrategic objective of ensuring an uninterrupted flow of gas to Europe by two alternative routes, in the process turning Poland and Ukraine into “energy islands”.

Merkel and Putin' triumph

Trump's unequivocal objective was to replace the Russian European energy dependence (30% of the gas imported by the EU comes from Russia) by fracking dependence, flooding the European market with LNG (natural gas fracked in the US and transported by gas tankers) to sink the Russian gas prices. Another objective was to promote the use of the fracking technique in all Eastern European countries, the so-called "European fracking arc" that would extend from the Baltic States to European Ukraine, passing through Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary. , Romania and Bulgaria and that it would depend on the technology of American companies such as Chevron or Shell. Thus, Poland aspired to become, with its two terminals, the main distribution center for imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) in European territory and after denouncing that “said gas pipeline could strengthen the EU's dependence on Russian gas and consolidate the dominant position of Gazprom in the European market ”. it would have managed to paralyze the construction of the aforementioned gas pipeline with the unequivocal objective of slowing down to a paroxysm the construction of the Nord Stream 2.

This gas pipeline has a total length of 1,200 km with an estimated cost of about $ 11,000 million, it will transport Russian gas directly through the Baltic to Germany and when it was already 80% built and in a desperate attempt to avoid its completion, the Senate On December 17, the United States approved the National Defense Authorization Act 2020 signed by Donald Trump that included economic sanctions against companies that participated in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. This represented a missile on the waterline of energy policy designed by Germany when Angela Merkel declared that it was "a declaration of war by the US against Germany", a late reaffirmation of German sovereignty that made the US stop boycotting the works and blessed the culmination of the gas project that will have as collateral effects the strengthening of the Paris-Berlin Axis and the subsequent rapprochement with Russia.

Thus, in her first meeting with Joe Biden, Merkel demanded the necessary completion of the works of said gas pipeline to avoid European disaffection towards the US, for which Biden was forced to bless the culmination of said gas project to maintain affective ties with the European Union and prevent the exit of Germany and France from the gravitational orbit of NATO. This would represent a resounding victory for Merkel and Putin that will be endorsed after the German elections and the foreseeable formation of a coalition government of the SPD, the Greens and the left with the withdrawal of sanctions on Russia and the beginning of a new pan-European era. led by France and Germany, which will host the Nordic countries and the Baltic Republics under its umbrella, leaving the countries of the “European fracking arch” (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria) under the US orbit and exposed to new gas wars.