Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rising Bear

Germany is not unique in becoming a client state of Russia - in 20 years time, the only EU nations that won't be are France and possibly the UK.

The forecast:
Janusz Bugajsky, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said at a Black Sea energy conference earlier this month that the European Union imports about 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia and predicted the figure could reach 70 percent in 20 years.

He noted that the state-owned Russian gas company Gazprom was expanding its transport routes through the Balkans, the Baltic area and Eastern Europe, and said it was imperative for Ukraine, Serbia and Moldova to seek ways to minimize their dependence on Moscow.

European leaders were put on notice in January, when Gazprom abruptly cut back supplies during a price dispute with Ukraine, at the same time reducing supplies to some EU countries.

Alarm was raised again this week during talks with ambassadors of the 25 EU countries in Moscow when Gazprom chief Alexei Miller issued what was taken as a threat to divert its gas to other markets.
Another commentator notes the consequences of Russian energy domination of the EU:
"By maximizing Europe's energy dependence, Russia gains financial and political leverage. It can erode the solidarity of NATO and split Europe from the United States and NATO..."
The Brits are struggling a bit:
...Britain may seek to block Gazprom's latest move into Western Europe, an attempt to take over the British gas supplier Centrica.
Plus the new Nabucco pipeline is being built to import non-Russian gas to the EU. It comes from Turkmenistan - via Iran. Duh.

Gas dependence on Russia is more serious than dependence on Arab oil, where other suppliers are available.

As previously noted, nuclear power is the only realistic alternative to dependence on hostile suppliers. France gets 78% of its electricity from nuclear power, the Brits 20%, and the rest of Europe is decommissioning what nuclear plant it has.

So in 2020, the only guaranteed survivor is France. There's time for the Brits to build their Independence too - France built 56 reactors in 15 years - but Brit public opinion has to change. Since an Iran-triggered oil shock and another Russian gas cutoff are both very likely, that change is on the cards.