Adjusting the strategy for the war in Ukraine
Therefore, on March 10, the Group of Industrialized Countries (G7) held an online meeting of energy ministers, focusing on how to deal with rising crude oil prices and reduce dependence on Russia’s financial resources in the current situation.
Two days earlier, on March 8, the European Commission (EC) unveiled a roadmap for energy independence, seeking to eliminate Russia’s dependence on energy imports by 2030, ranging from natural gas, natural combustion.
In the action plan titled “Joint Action on Cheap, Safe and Sustainable Energy in Europe”, the European Union (EU) proposes to reduce gas imports from Russia by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and will take steps to accelerate the exploitation of renewable energy in the future. ahead, diversify energy sources, improve energy efficiency, etc. to reduce dependence on Russian energy.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Xinhua News Agency
In this regard, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU could not “rely on regular energy suppliers threatens the European Unionshould diversify natural gas sources next winter and accelerate the energy transition. “The sooner we move to renewable energy, hydroelectric power, and more energy efficiency, the sooner we can really take control of our energy systems.”
“Joint Action on Cheap, Safe and Sustainable Energy in Europe”, also known as the “EU New Energy Strategy”, was first unveiled by Reuters news agency in mid-February.
On February 23 local time, the prototype of the strategy was disclosed exclusively by the Washington Post (USA), and is expected to be published by the EC as early as March 2.
However, due to the rapid progress of hostilities in Ukraine, the “EU New Energy Strategy” has become obsolete, so it was announced a week later than expected with many detailed, more detailed revisions than the previously disclosed prototype.
For example, the general direction is “remove Russia by 2030” unchanging, but necessary “remove Russia as soon as possible”, and specifically proposes a goal of reducing Russian natural gas by two-thirds this year. To this end, the “EU New Energy Strategy” recommends “find alternative gas supply as soon as possible”, “improve energy efficiency” and “increase clean energy use in the medium and long term”; at the same time lowering the target “reducing fossil fuel use by up to 40%”.
Offer “strategic natural gas reserves increase” remains the same, while more specific operating instructions are added to the “increase natural gas reserves from 30% today to 90% in the fall”, and recommends upgrading this proposal into EU law. It requires a vote by the European Parliament and the parliaments of the 27 EU member states.
The short-term solutions mentioned in the “EU New Energy Strategy” include pipeline natural gas and imports of liquefied natural gas from other countries. The long-term solution refers to increased use of renewable energy, referring to the familiar wind and solar power, hydrogen energy – which the EU’s “green energy side” rarely talked about before. , even includes biogas “to loosen the soil” .
The new energy strategy also proposes that EU member states should find a way to subsidize “green energy” with funds raised from the “Carbon Emissions Trading Plan”, in order to replace chemical energy. Traditional jelly is faster and better, thereby achieving the goal of “escape from Russia” “faster and cheaper”.
People ride bicycles past the European Commission headquarters building in Brussels (Belgium) September 19, 2021. Energy supply problems have long plagued Europe. Photo: Xinhua News Agency
Why “get out of Russia”?
According to Beijing News (China), in fact, the strategic idea of ”European energy eliminates dependence on Russia” appeared much earlier than people imagined.
In early 1981, then-US President Ronald Reagan firmly opposed and blocked the construction of the Soviet-Western European natural gas pipeline. However, under opposition and persuasion from West Germany and other European countries, Mr. Reagan finally gave in and stepped down in 1982.
In 2009, the Russo-European natural gas crisis caused a shortage of heating gas supply in Western Europe in winter. Especially after the outbreak of the crisis in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014, Europe and the US called for “escape from Europe’s dependence on Russia for energy”.
However, at the urging of Germany and France, instead of giving in, they promoted the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project from Vyborg (Russia) to Greifswald (Northern Stream 2).
And starting in 2021, Europe’s heating energy crisis has once again made the “run from Russia” a hot topic of discussion.
On February 15, 2022, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev announced on social networks that: “If you dare to boycott ‘Northern Stream 2’, Europe will face a beautiful new era in which 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas sells for 2,000 euros.”
On February 19, at a meeting of European policymakers on the topic of security, EC President Ursula von der Leyen said: “A strong European Union cannot depend on energy suppliers who can go to war on the European mainland.”
On February 22, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also changed his mind and announced the freezing of the “Northern Stream 2” project.
The curve of the natural gas pipeline “Northern Stream 2” also represents the energy “game” between the EU and Russia. Photo: Xinhua News Agency
According to Beijing News, from the prototype before the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict to the current “upgraded version”, the EU’s idea of ”running away from Russia” has definitely become more concrete, more urgent and decisive.
In addition, on March 8, the US and UK simultaneously announced to stop imports of Russian oil and gas products, which also created “reverse pressure” on EU decision makers.
The UK is an independent country in oil and gas, while the US is soon diversifying its fossil energy import channels. Therefore, only the European Union is in a “dilemma”, must find another way out.
“Escape from Russia” is not easy
However, the EU is too dependent on Russia for energy. By 2021, 27% of EU oil, 41% of natural gas and 47% of coal will come from Russia. This means that even if Germany “grins its teeth” and abandons its newly determined plan to “eliminate coal thermal power” and decides to “take a short time to raise the length”, they also find that coal power cannot escape the shadows. Russia.
In recent years, due to the great efforts of environmentalists, European Union countries have accelerated the abandonment of coal, nuclear, and even hydroelectric power, but the wind and solar power being replaced remains largely “weather dependent”. The “EU New Energy Strategy” is caught between the “two main political corners” of “green energy” and “going to Russia”.
Therefore, not only Germany is showing doubts, but countries such as the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Italy have also repeatedly expressed their objections to the “European Union New Energy Strategy” roadmap or proposed “temporary exceptions”.
“Escape from Russia” is no easy feat for the EU, but as EC Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans put it: “It’s hard, it’s hard, but we can still do it if we really want to.”
On a global scale, whether oil, gas or coal is a “relatively scarce” resource, not a “really scarce” resource. The European Coal Industry Trade Group also said that the US and Australia could now jointly replace 70% of Russia’s coal exports to the EU.
International Energy Agency (IAEA) data also shows that delaying closing and operating at full capacity of existing EU coal-fired power plants could reduce gas imports from Russia, down 15% for the year. Of course, EU energy costs also increased by 22 billion USD.
A gas station in Frankfurt (Germany) on October 8, 2021. The European Union is facing the direct impact of soaring energy prices in recent years. Photo: Xinhua News Agency
In theory, spare capacity in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iraq could also offset oil exports from Russia to Europe in a few months.
Even though Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they “no intention to increase oil production”, but the US has moved to relax oil sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. By then, not only will the two sanctioned countries be producing and selling oil at full capacity, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE will also have to follow suit to maintain their market share.
In the field of natural gas pipelines, Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan can all replace Russia, and these countries are also very well prepared. In terms of liquefied natural gas, the US, Qatar, Australia and Nigeria can all fill the gap.
Simply put, the European Union “get rid of Russia” to achieve energy diversification is not impossible. The key lies in whether the bloc’s 27 member states can stay united for long, and how much pain and discomfort they are willing to endure.