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EU energy security: is Russia really the problem?

Glachant-JeanMichel

by Jean-Michel Glachant

Director, Florence School of Regulation

12 June 2014

 

 

Most EU citizens fear for their energy security. Many would like to be free from their dependence on Russia - notably for their supply of gas. We were barely prepared for what Russia has done, and what it is going to do in the upcoming months is hardly predictable. What should the EU do then?

In real life when you really fear your neighbours you call the police or…you move. If you cannot, you have to change your life-style. The same applies to the EU for gas. We have at least four options before us to achieve a substantial increase in gas security: 1/ diversify our gas supply; 2/ ensure a better internal circulation of gas supplied by any source; 3/ progressively substitute gas with other sources of energy; 4/ and – of course- reduce our gas needs by increasing energy efficiency of our equipment.

We first have to ask ourselves: Has the EU diversified its gas supply enough? Why do some European Member States favour building more gas pipes for Russian gas (such as the North stream and the South stream)? Why don’t we engage more with other suppliers from Iran, Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan, from Africa, Cyprus or the Gulf? Why not rely more on EU natural gas, for example on shale gas in, let’s say, Poland?

Secondly: “Have we sufficiently opened up internal circulation of gas inside the EU?” With stronger pipe interconnections and more liquid continental trade?

Thirdly: If no more gas can flow freely inside the EU, could we substitute gas with alternative energy, such as coal, nuclear, river flows, biomass, wind or solar?

Last but not least, we should ask ourselves why not consume less energy and invest more in sober machinery and equipment, in better isolated buildings and houses? Why not burn less gas while achieving the same level of individual and collective welfare?

If we seriously check our own gas agenda along these lines, I am not sure we will first accuse Russia before complaining about ourselves.

 

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