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Nordstream 2, Gotland. Photo supplied

Who is to blame for the EU’s current gas crisis?

The EU itself is to blame for the gas crisis which is in full swing in Europe, due to "myopia" and because the bloc "ignored the role that natural gas should play as a transitional fuel for decarbonization" according to a UK daily.

Published: October 14, 2021, 10:54 am

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    The rise in energy prices reflects the lack of European reserves and strong Asian demand, noted the Financial Times. This obviously gives Russia political leverage, according to the media outlet.

    Moscow, for its part, has always stressed the purely economic nature of its gas deliveries, rejecting allegations that it was used as a means of pressure. Likewise, an analyst from the Russian National Energy Security Fund told Sputnik that the price hike did not benefit Russia at all, because “when the price gets very high it starts to kill demand”.

    The Russian President also recalled on Wednesday that his country had always fully fulfilled its contract obligations with its partners in Europe “even during the most difficult periods of the Cold War”.

    The Financial Times cited a study showing that 84 percent of French people said that they were worried about their energy expenditure in the face of soaring gas prices in Europe.

    Who is to blame?

    However, the EU can only blame itself for this crisis, according to the British daily. The EU “has increased its gas dependence on Russia over the past decade”. But it is noteworthy that the United States, which for several years sought to prevent the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline hoping to deliver more LNG to Europe, has proved unable to make up this deficit with its exports.

    This is quite contrary to what US Energy Secretary Rick Perry had promised in urging the EU to buy US liquefied natural gas (LNG) stating that Russian gas supply would not be “reliable”. Perry told Brussels in 2019: “You might buy cheaper from someplace else but it might not be reliable and the point is the same with Russian gas.”

    According to the newspaper, the European Union is 41 percent dependent on natural gas imports from Russia. The UK is not as dependent on it, but is, like all other countries, sensitive to price fluctuations. Both Brussels and London “have ignored the role natural gas should play as a transitional fuel for decarbonization”.

    As a result, over the past decade, UK gas reserves have shrunk by two-thirds and are now only sufficient for four to five days of peak winter demand, lamented the FT.

    The surge in gas prices observed in recent weeks is “an appropriate punishment for European and British politicians because of their myopia,” insisted the Financial Times. They can remedy this by developing energy transition plans featuring natural gas as a transitional and reserve fuel, according to the media outlet.

    A risk of shortage?

    Normally, the country buys US LNG to cushion price shocks. Last year, US gas accounted for 12 percent of British imports, the FT explained. This year, American LNG terminals were already operating at 95 percent of their capacity due to strong Asian demand.

    Russian gas giant Gazprom, for its part, has also almost reached its maximum capacity, producing 1,4 billion cubic meters per day. Russia also needs to fill national reserves first before serving foreign customers.

    Vladimir Putin, for his part, said on Wednesday that Russia was ready to discuss additional delivery volumes and could even set a record for granting gas this year.

    Accusations that Moscow was using its natural resources to pressure other countries, were part of the information war waged against it by the West, said Russian diplomats. Allegations that Moscow was using natural gas as political leverage were dishonest, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov said this week.

    Tensions linked to the gas crisis in Europe can be reduced with the launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, but administrative barriers have not yet been lifted, as the German regulator has not yet made its decision, the Russian President pointed out. According to him, the company Nord Stream 2 is conducting discussions, in particular with the German authorities. “The German regulator must take an appropriate decision, they have not yet taken it,” added the head of state.

    For his part, Josep Borrell, the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs, admitted that Europe still needs Russian gas deliveries and could increase its imports under the current contract.

    The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that electricity prices in Europe have reached an unprecedented level, often above 100 euros per megawatt/hour (MWh). In Germany and Spain, they have tripled or even quadrupled compared to the indices of 2019 and 2020.

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