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The war in Ukraine reveals the failure of the German energy strategy and therefore of the EU

Contributed by Samuel Furfari. First published in French in Atlantico; republished here in translation with permission of the author. ©2022

Vladimir Putin’s brutal and inadmissible invasion of Ukraine revealed the perilous state of the EU’s energy situation. It was Germany that dragged us into this debacle, that made us prisoners of the energy of Russia. For decades, the EU has been indoctrinated by German environmentalists (Hans Jonas) who demonized nuclear electricity and fossil fuels. And yet, these reprobate energies have forced the European Council — in what must be called a form of humiliation — not to adopt sanctions against the energy that comes from Russia, so essential is it to our economy. Yes, energy is life. We need abundant and cheap energy, like it or not.

In October 2000, the European Commission published a Green Paper on the security of energy supply in the EU . It was defining a common-sense strategy of not putting all the eggs in one basket. First, the types of primary energy used should be diversified . Secondly, it is prudent to diversify the countries from which these energies are imported and thirdly, even for the same energy and the same country, it is wise to diversify the routes and means of supply.

For fifteen years, these elementary precautions prevailed. But under the pressure of the ideas of the German ecologists who reign in Brussels/Strasbourg, these basic principles have been set aside. Germany – with Chancellor Angela Merkel converted to anti-nuclear environmentalism – has imposed on the EU to aim for the elimination of all fossil fuels and nuclear energy to leave only the sympathetic renewable energies. Their EnergieWende strategy consisted in fighting against climate change – translate ‘nothing but renewable energy’ – and no longer in ensuring the essential security of supply. You might argue that if we had 100% renewable energy, we wouldn’t have to worry about Russia anymore. Except that this desire to produce more renewable energies is not the result of the fight against climate change, because this quest dates back almost half a century. If since the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 we have managed to produce 2.5% of primary energy demand from wind and photovoltaic solar energy, despite the unfailing support by the European Commission ― and initially justified, it is because there are compelling reasons that are related to physics and do not obey EU directives. Denying the obvious helped lead to this German failure which reverberates throughout the EU.

Germany’s second mistake is to be too dependent not on natural gas (it represents only 25%), but on Russian gas. In 2019 it imported 84 billion m³ (Gm³), of which 51 Gm³ from Russia. The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline which avoids Ukraine, Belarus and Poland by crossing the Baltic Sea and which has been in operation since 2011 can transport 55 Gm³ and the new Nord Stream 2 as much. It is finished thanks to the determination of Angela Merkel who convinced Joe Biden on July 15, 2021 that this infrastructure had to be completed. It must be said that the SPD, which was in coalition with Mrs. Merkel and which now leads the government, has always been close to Russian energy. In the time of Chancellor Willy Brandt, the SPD was called the fifth column of Moscow. Besides, this Russian romanticism led ex-SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to propose the Nord Stream 1 and still is since he is nominated for the Gazprom Board of Directors, which is why he lives under protection. The land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the two gas pipelines end in Greifswald, is also run by the SPD. Admittedly, the German Greens were opposed to this gas pipeline, but the government agreement had not provided for the abandonment of Nordstream 2.

But there is something stranger for such a large economy. Germany has not built a single gas terminal to receive LNG carriers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) for supply on the world market. Ecologists opposed the various projects presented, because they saw in them the perpetuation of the importation of fossil energy. Yet in 2003, when the United States was facing a shortage of indigenous natural gas—this was before shale gas was developed—Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan called LNG “a ultimate safety valve”. Germany did not believe him. No more than shale gas for that matter. Almost all EU maritime Member States have one or more LNG terminals. France has 3, Italy also and Spain 7.

By paraphrasing Lord Palmerston (in reference to the United Kingdom), let us remember that States have no friends, they only have interests. This is true for the United States — of course also for Russia — but it is unfortunately also true for the EU Member States among themselves. The Iberian Peninsula has 8 LNG terminals, but they are useless for the rest of the EU because of France which refuses the gas interconnection between northern Catalonia and Perpignan. The same is true for Algerian gas which could arrive in Spain but cannot continue to Germany via France. We are right there in one of the many contradictions of the EU’s energy policy.

Let us recall the German enthusiasm for hydrogen, an enthusiasm that I denounce in my book “The Hydrogen Illusion” and which has once again led the EU to rush into this cul-de-sac thanks to the “Covid “. Worse ! Germany was preparing to import hydrogen produced in Russia through the Nord Stream gas pipelines . Hydrogen does not exist in nature and must be produced from an energy (most often from natural gas) and of course this can only be done with a loss of yield, but in addition it was Putin’s natural gas that the Germans were preparing to be dependent on so-called green energy.

The very day that Vladimir Putin announced the recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (or Lugansk), the forum of gas exporting countries met in Doha. This kind of “OPEC of natural gas” which represents 70% of the world gas market (the United States is not part of it) has made it known that the EU should not count on additional exports from them. Their order books are filled by long-term contracts with countries that are not obsessed with decarbonization. This ridicules the position of Jo Biden, who hoped to divert LNG carriers leaving from these countries… to Germany where there is no terminal.

Energy is life. It transcends all other activities. This is why European leaders were unable to pass any sanctions on Russian energy (except for a vague reference to spare parts for oil refineries ). There remains Olaf Scholz’s announcement to freeze the administrative certification procedure for Nord Stream 2. The EU is and will remain very dependent on Russia for a long time to come for its supply of gas, oil, coal and uranium. Energy infrastructure that should have been built years ago cannot be created in a few months.

Berlin will have to resign itself to abandoning its green anti-nuclear and anti-lignite (it is very cheap coal) ideology. If they want to control their dependence on Russian gas to a minimum, they must maintain the power stations that they promised to close. Ironically, it is a government with environmentalists who will have to do it. Belgium is in the same situation, the government ― with ecologists who have imposed since 2003 the definitive and irrevocable abandonment of nuclear electricity ― will be forced logically to extend the life of certain nuclear power stations.

It is time for the EU to stop following the German EnergieWende which should rather be called EnergieVerrat, because it is a betrayal and not a transition. The rest of the world teaches us that the future lies in abundant and cheap energy, i.e. fossil fuels, and nuclear energy, while bringing competition into play to ensure both security of supply and a reasonable price.

In his book L’esprit des lois, Montesquieu writes “  Two nations which negotiate together make each other reciprocally dependent: if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling. And all unions are based on mutual need “. This sentence applies perfectly to our energy situation. Security of energy supply is like tango, you have to be two partners who like each other. After the disintegration of the USSR — which Putin calls the great catastrophe — the EU signed the Energy Charter Treaty with Russia in 1994 to ensure the technological contribution of the EU in exchange for access to Russia’s vast hydrocarbon deposits. For two years, European parliamentarians indoctrinated by green ideology have been claiming that the EU should withdraw from this international treaty or that it is imposing its modifications on others on the pretext that the charter protects investments .in fossil fuel production and transport infrastructure. We could have continued the constructive dialogue begun in 1994 with Russia and thus been partners who trusted each other, so as to integrate Russia and therefore also Ukraine more and more into the European economic area. Or else it would have been necessary to greatly reduce the dependence on Russian energy imports.

The EU has done neither. It failed in its energy geopolitics strategy. The trap of decarbonization is closing in on us. In future Ukrainians will remember that it was the EU that gave Vladimir Putin the weapons to invade them while humiliating EU leaders. It’s a shame for us who believed in the construction of Europe. We were off to such a good start, but an ecological ideology as destructive as communism broke everything.

Samuel Furfari wrote “Ecologism. Assault against Western society”(VA editions) and wrote in 2 volumes “The changing world of energy and the geopolitical challenges”, KDP editions.

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Samuel Furfari

Samuel Furfari
Professor of Energy Geopolitics
President of the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists

1 Comment

  1. Fran Manns

    Chancellors Schroder and Merkel both built pipe-lines. Naive eh?

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