News / Economy

    European Leaders Seek Ways to Curb Dependence on Russian Gas

    Map shows gas pipelines supplying energy to Ukraine, Europe
    Map shows gas pipelines supplying energy to Ukraine, Europe
    Reuters
    European leaders will seek ways to cut their multi-billion-dollar dependence on Russian gas at talks in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, while stopping short of severing energy ties with Moscow for now.

    Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region has revived doubts about whether the European Union should continue to rely on Russia for nearly a third of its gas, providing Gazprom with an average of $5 billion per month in revenue. Some 40 percent of that gas is shipped via Ukraine.

    EU powerhouse Germany is among those with particularly close energy links to Russia and has echoed comments from Gazprom, Russia's top natural gas producer, that Russia has been a reliable supplier for decades.

    Russian supplies of gas to the EU were disrupted in 2006 and 2009, but only because of knock-on effects when Moscow cut off Ukraine for not paying its bills. Although those incidents resulted in EU attempts to diversify its energy sources, contracts to the bloc have always been honored.

    EU officials said the current Ukraine crisis, however, had convinced many in Europe that Russia was no longer reliable and the political will to end its supply dominance had never been greater.

    “Everyone recognizes a major change of pace is needed on the part of the European Union,” one EU official said on condition of anonymity.

    “At the back of people's minds, there will always be the doubt that if the relationship goes sour, Russia has that weapon and it's not something it should have,” another official said, referring to Russia's option of severing supplies.

    A draft document prepared ahead of the summit calls on the European Commission, the EU executive, to present by June a comprehensive plan to reduce EU energy dependence.

    As alternatives to imported gas, the Brussels talks will debate the EU's “indigenous supplies”, which include renewable energy and shale gas.

    They will also underline the need for energy efficiency and to build better cross-border links to share resources, control costs and develop EU capacity to pump gas to Ukraine should it need help.

    A British discussion paper, circulated among member states, lists a range of options, including intensifying talks on the export of Iraqi gas via pipeline to Europe and examining how to “facilitate” gas exports from the United States as part of trade talks with the EU.

    EU officials said they expected the issue to be raised during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Brussels next week, although analysts caution that any U.S. gas exported would be more likely to head to Asia rather than Europe because prices there are higher.

    Forty-year bond

    Keen to underline its continued relevance, Gazprom last week issued a statement to mark the 40th anniversary of supplying Russian gas to Germany under long-term contracts to utility E.ON . Russian gas is sent directly to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline, specifically built to bypass Ukraine.

    E.ON is among the utilities whose business models have been shaken by an EU shift to green energy. The company says the grid needs gas-fired generation to balance intermittent solar and wind.

    One of the many questions is the extent to which indigenous shale gas can replace imports.

    The signs so far are that public opposition and Europe's different geology mean it cannot match the United States' shale gas revolution, which has lowered energy costs there. Even in the oil and gas industry, many are cautious about the prospects for EU shale gas.

    That leaves EU industry smarting at what it sees as a competitive disadvantage, when the Ukraine crisis is likely to inflate energy prices further. It is seeking help for energy-intensive industry to manage costs, which it says have been driven up by subsidies to increase the share of green energy.

    The renewables lobby says the real driver of energy costs is imported fossil fuels, on which Europe spends more than 400 billion euros ($557 billion) per year.

    “The EU is criticizing Russia's invasion of Crimea while pouring money into Russian coffers for gas imports,” said Thomas Becker, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, which is calling for a tougher goal on use of renewable energy.

    But as coal-dependent Poland for one opposes an early agreement on 2030 climate and energy policy, this week's talks are not expected to get anywhere near a deal on that.

    EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said only that the talks should send “a strong signal.”

    The draft summit document says EU member states should aim to make a final decision on the new policy framework “as quickly as possible and no later than October 2014”.

    That will disappoint those who say a decision is urgently needed to drive investment in low-carbon energy and to reduce fossil fuel imports, as well as to settle the EU negotiating position ahead of a U.N. climate change deal meant to be sealed late next year.

    So far, the European Commission has suggested 2030 policy should include a 27 percent EU-wide goal for renewables as a proportion of energy use and a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions versus 1990 levels.

    That compares with an existing target to cut carbon by 20 percent by 2020, which the European Union has almost achieved, as well as a goal, binding on each member state, to get 20 percent of energy from renewables, which is also within reach.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jean-Marc from: France
    March 20, 2014 11:13 AM
    Moving away from Russian gas supply is a much needed decision from the EU, and it is long overdue. Long term deep cut in trade with Russia is the only form of economic sanctions the illegitimate dictator who currently rule Russia and its corrupt government will understand. Europe should resume trade with Russia as soon Putin resigns from power but not earlier.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 20, 2014 5:31 PM
    Europe will fail without Russian trade. Putin is standing up for Russia amid all the western propaganda. It is fair that the west can act above the law as they please?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8954
    JPY
    USD
    110.07
    GBP
    USD
    0.6802
    CAD
    USD
    1.2932
    INR
    USD
    67.080

    Rates may not be current.