Tusk warns Merkel against Russian gas addiction

  

Poland's prime minister Donald Tusk said yesterday (10 March) he would ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work to reduce European dependence on Russian gas to avert "potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future".

Hedegaard: “Ukrainian crisis shows we need to reduce our energy dependency”

Angela Merkel will visit Poland on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia has effectively taken control of the southern Crimean peninsula. Events there have highlighted European reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Ukraine is a major gas transit nation for supplies from Russia to the European Union (EU), which relies on Russia for over a quarter of its gas.

"Germany's dependence on Russian gas may effectively decrease Europe's sovereignty. I have no doubts about that," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference.

"Increasingly more expensive energy in Europe due to exorbitant climate and environmental ambitions may also mean greater dependence in Russian energy sources...Hence, I will talk (to Merkel) primarily about how Germany is able to correct some economic actions so that dependence on Russian gas doesn't paralyse Europe when it needs...a decisive stance."

Germany has been one of the strongest proponents of increasing the share of renewable energy sources in Europe. Poland gets nearly all of its energy from domestically produced coal, and has opposed these efforts in the past.

"The question of Ukraine is a question of EU's future, EU's safety, and a correction of EU's energy policy," Tusk said.

"We will not be able to efficiently fend off potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future, if so many European countries are dependent on Russian gas deliveries or wade into such dependence," he added.

Poland is the largest central European economy and has played a role in diplomatic efforts of the European Union in the worst stand-off between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Four central European countries have already asked the U.S. Congress to make it easier for them to import natural gas from the United States and reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia.

Last year, Russia's gas export giant Gazprom supplied EU and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic metres of gas, of which 86 bcm was delivered via Ukraine.

Gazprom issued a veiled warning last week that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills, reprising the brief disruption in deliveries during a dispute between Russia and Ukraine during the winter of 2009.

European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said he did not expect Russia to switch off gas supplies to Europe over the Ukraine crisis. If no more gas flowed through Ukraine, it would affect 14% of European gas consumption, he added.

Positions: 

Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) published today (11 March) a statement, informing of the gas situation in Europe. GIE is an association representing the interests of European natural gas infrastructure operators active in natural gas transmission, storage and LNG regasification

“The supply of natural gas is robust in Europe. Up to now, the recent developments in Ukraine have not affected gas flows to European countries and the level of gas in stock is high for this period of the year”, the statement reads.

However, GIE says that the situation between Russia and Ukraine raises the question of European security of gas supply.

A potential disruption on the Ukrainian route could be mitigated via re-routing to other supply routes from Russia, or from other export countries (Norway, etc.), including LNG from many countries, GIE says [read more]. 

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Comments

xam's picture

If we are honestly concerned about Russian aggression and not just brag about moral superiority, we Europeans should not listen to coal-monsters, but cut down our energy consumption. Just think of your household - 14% less energy use isn't that hard to achieve.
Pull on a sweater and stop whining (and further endangering the freedom and survival of the species).

Charles's picture

Yes, and no. Yes, Germany, together with Italy, has been guilty of breaking European solidarity with bilateral gas deals with Gazprom, and therefor tending to exacerbate European weakness. No, because the rise of wind and solar in Germany has directly led to a large drop in gas consumption for electricity. Indeed, it has been one of the key straws clutched at by the flat-earthers: that Germany has been (until this year - now turning down) using more coal because it is cheaper than gas.

However, those figures apply only to electricity, which is not Germany's largest energy component. Heating and transport still show dependence on gas and, especially, oil. (Amazed to learn that recently, that Germany is still using oil for heating... bizarre.) Germany's suite of renewables, including its largest if least fashionable - biomass - is the only way of finally slaying the dragon of hydrocarbon addiction. Certainly, other avenues need also to be explored in the interim, including broadening the scope for sourcing oil and gas imports.

But it's curious to read this deeply, primitively anti-environmental rant from Donald Tusk. One of the surprising things you learn from spending any time in Russia is how much, and for how long, Poland has been able to generate reflex hostility in Russia, particularly among political and media circles, almost as though it were the great foe in world affairs, and the cultural antithesis of Russia. I wouldn't be astonished to hear that the feeling is mutual. But it also strikes me how similar Poland and Russia are in many ways. To find something as crudely, unselfconsciously anti-environmental as DT's remarks, you would have to look to somewhere like...Russia.

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