Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some Thoughts on Europe's Energy Security and Russia

The trans-Atlantic energy dialogue conference is taking place according to Chatham House rules, but I did want to note some of the general themes being discussed. What I find interesting is the extent to which it picks up on conversations earlier this year.

One point raised was that Europe is both vulnerable due to its dependency on outside sources for its gas needs but also that Europe essentially as the world's largest importer of gas also sets market rules.

European governments are concerned about possible supply disruptions that result from disputes between Russia and the transit countries (and want to be prepared for them) but so far have not tended to worry about Russia cutting off supplies to paying European customers feeling that there is a mutually of interest at play.

There is a lot of talk about energy security and the need for diversification but that some of the countries that complain the loudest about Russia are also the ones not putting much money on the table to pay for different options, so that there is an imbalance between rhetoric and what is actually taking place. Some of the concepts like "energy NATO" also are based on assumptions that richer European countries will pay for the stocks of energy themselves.

How essential is unbundling in Europe for creating a true market for natural gas? Is this also a case where Moscow can use powerful vested European interests (such as the major gas companies) to block a move it may feel compromises its own interests?

Well, Nik, various noisy Poles and Balts, and possibly Ukrainians, are looking for a new source of subsidized energy. Russia is no longer interested, no matter how many nasty insults Poles/Balts/Galicians hurl at Moscow. So now its Germany, France, and Great Britain that must supply the cash.

After all, these countries are anything but independent states economically, and therefore need someone to pay their bills, and be grateful for the privilige, and apologize that they didn't pay up sooner.
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