Russian energy exports have created dependence in Eastern Europe and complex business relationships in Western Europe
- Russia has used its natural gas and other energy exports as a geopolitical tool for decades.
- Russian energy pipeline infrastructure, built and owned by Russian state-owned enterprises, has locked-in most of Eastern Europe to a dependence on Russian gas imports – which the Russian Government has traded for geopolitical access.
- Western European states have more diversified energy markets, alternative suppliers, and the infrastructure to store and transport gas, so they not as dependent upon Russia. However, they separate doing ‘business’ with Russian companies from geopolitics – a separation that the Russian government does not make. A reluctance to upset business relationships has made Western Europe fearful of upsetting the Russian government.
The U.S. has limited short-term options to counter Russian energy dependence.
- The United States will only be able to export Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) on a large scale once the complex infrastructure requirements are approved and built in accordance with a strategic plan for how the U.S. should use and produce energy.
- The boom in natural gas production due to the American shale gas revolution has already helped reduce Western European dependence on Russian gas by freeing up supplies of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from countries like Qatar and Norway that had originally been intended for the U.S.
- Permitting new LNG exports from the U.S. will further encourage the development of open global markets for gas – providing leverage against Russia.
- We should not overstate this. LNG export infrastructure will take years to build, and LNG is – by its very nature – more costly than piped gas.
- Because the U.S. government does not own energy companies, it cannot direct energy exports for geopolitical reasons: companies will export to where they can make profits. This means the U.S. cannot and should not respond to Russia with its own “energy weapon.”
- The U.S. benefits from open, competitive global markets for energy – and its policy should be to foster and protect free markets.
Solving energy dependence in Europe means changing the game away from “who owns the energy?”
- The U.S. and its NATO allies can only counter Russia by changing the game and taking a longer-term view.
- That means investing in nuclear power and key alternatives.
- It means investments in next generation R&D into fusion power.
- It means freeing-up U.S. LNG to supply allies and/or to supply directly into a world market to limit Russian and other suppliers geopolitical action.
|Andrew Holland, Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate|
Today, the U.S. could not even announce that we intended to buy LNG from a current exporter like Qatar to ship to Ukraine to supplant Russian gas, because Ukraine has no LNG import facilities. Ukraine doesn’t even have import pipelines from Western Europe – the only place it can get gas from is Russia – so they are at Gazprom’s mercy when they announce price increases.
What leverage does the United States and its allies in Europe have over Russia? Energy was central to the causes of the conflict, and it could prove to provide a solution.
This baseload capacity that nuclear energy provides, however, is crucial to the rest of the energy revolution. There are real hurdles to continued growth in both renewables and natural gas.
Columnist George Will devoted his December 22 column to the prospects for fusion energy, with a visit to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, saying that “A Dazzling Bright Future Dawns in New Jersey.” His column hyperlinks to ASP’s White Paper, “Fusion Power: A 10 Year Plan to Energy Security”
The ITER project is a 7 nation treaty-based collaboration between the EU, the US, Russia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. Dr. Ned Sauthoff, the Director of the US contribution to ITER underscored that the US remains on budget, but does face future budget challenges.
An interdisciplinary report, produced by the MIT Energy Initiative, finds that a type of breeder reactor, an enriched uranium-initiated breeder reactor, could resolve uranium shortages and the problems of reprocessing. It would add natural or depleted uranium to the reactor core at the same rate nuclear materials are consumed, making an efficient fuel cycle that does not produce weapons grade waste.
Whitman argued that the United States needs a reliable, safe, affordable, and clean source of energy. She explained that natural gas prices are volatile, oil and coal are too dirty for the environment, and renewable energy cannot be relied upon. She said that when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, the country would still need a reliable base load power source.
New York Times
CORAL DAVENPORT and STEVEN ERLANGER
MARCH 5, 2014
WASHINGTON — The crisis in Crimea is heralding the rise of a new era of American energy diplomacy, as the Obama administration tries to deploy the vast new supply of natural gas in the United States as a weapon to undercut the influence of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, over Ukraine and Europe.
Paul Bledsoe and Lee Feinstein
MARCH 5, 2014
The American natural gas revolution has boosted economic competitiveness, and helped reduce U.S. carbon emissions to their lowest levels in 20 years. The question is now whether the United States will leverage this energy bounty to advance its foreign policy goals during the most serious East-West crisis in a generation.
New York Times
March 4, 2014
Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.