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Russian gas and European energy policy - a reprise

by Jerome a Paris Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 10:18:13 AM EST

This was posted in May 2007 and is worth reposting today given the new context of tense relations with Russia and worries/suspicion/empty talk about "energy weapons." The original post is built as a discussion an an Economist article about Russian gas (A bear at the throat) published in April 2007. Back then, as I wrote, "it took legitimate (if often poorly informed) worries about Russia's sometimes blustering behavior on the energy markets to peddle the usual insane crap that market liberalisation is the only solution to promote energy security.."

Today, the focus seems to be more on the geopolitical threat the Russia represents, but the conclusion is still, of course, about the incompetence and failure of continental Europe - this time not to liberalize, but rather to 'stand up' to Russia's bullying. Below, the original post, with some additional comments written today (in italics and between brackets).


[Last year] I spoke at a debate on Gazprom at IFRI, a French think tank. That conference was organised after the publication of two quite different articles about Gazprom:
Gazprom as a Predictable Partner. Another Reading of the Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Belarusian Energy Crises by Jérôme Guillet
Gazprom, the Fastest Way to Energy Suicide by Christophe-Alexandre Paillard

The titles give a hint that the papers start from pretty different positions - as you can see in the executive summaries of each that I am posting below, [but they in fact reach fairly similar conclusions, which are still relevant today]

The recent crises over oil & gas deliveries from Russia to Ukraine and Belarus have triggered alarm and virulent criticism in the West. This article describes how these conflicts are in fact not very different from those that took place in the early 1990s and reflect behind-the-scene conflicts between powerful factions inside the Kremlin and in Ukraine rather than the exercise of an “energy weapon.” In the context of a European energy policy driven by Britain’s panic at becoming a gas importer and by the ideological zeal to liberalize, the West should worry less about the exercise of a purported aggressive geopolitical strategy and more about Putin’s lack thereof, and his inability to control his warring lieutenants. Above all, the West should stop considering that Russia owes Europe any gas beyond its contractual obligations, which it fulfills with alacrity.

Jérôme Guillet is an investment banker in Paris, specialized in structured finance for energy projects, and the editor of the European Tribune, a website on European politics.

Russia is an unavoidable actor in world energy geopolitics. It is also the biggest energy partner of a European Union (EU) that is becoming ever more dependent on outside sources for its energy needs. However, the future of Russia's largest company-Gazprom-and the development of its future production capacities are at the center of a complex financial and political game dominated by numerous uncertainties, including Gazprom's actual reserves, its ability to invest in exploration and production, and its very capacity to develop production. Indeed, back in state hands, Russian gas and oil companies-Gazprom included-do not appear to be in a position to meet their future production commitments. Gazprom's ability to honor its contracts with gas companies in the EU is in fact already the subject of numerous interrogations.

Christophe-Alexandre Paillard is Head of the Industrial and Technological Trends Department within the French Ministry of Defense's Strategic Affairs Office.

But the most interesting thing, in fact, is that both in our papers, and during the debate, we ended up agreeing on many, if not most, things, the most important of which being:

  • European energy policy is inexistant and what passes for policy (the liberalisation of markets) is indeed considered insane by all;
  • Russian behavior is driven to a large extent by the personal strategies and interests of a few individuals at the very top. There is no overarching geopolitical plan, but a lot of political infighting and short term asset-grabbing strategies. That may be even more worrying in itself than purposeful strategies to use the "energy weapon", but the motivations are different. It is true however that the global energy situation allows Russia to be a lot more assertive, or even brutal, on the international stage, and there's little that can be done about that;
  • there is indeed a lot of uncertainty of what medium and long term production of gas in Russia will be - because of the decline of its existing "workhorses" (the huge fields that current provide most of its production) and the lack of incentives for Gazprom and/or its managers to invest in upstram assets. There are more or less optimistic views on this, but the question definitely exists for all - and brings us back to the lack of European strategy in the face of uncertainty.
The unanimous conclusion is that Europe can actually do something: it controls its own demand, and should focus its efforts on that.

That would mean, for instance, having an energy policy that does not encourage almost exclusively the construction of gas-fired power plants... And yet that's exactly what liberalisation does, as I explained in in this article in the Financial Times, by making it easier to invest in generation assets that are cheap to finance - i.e. those with lower upfront investment costs and higher running (fuel) costs like gas-fired and coal-fired plants.

Of course, that is a topic that is conspicuously absent from the Economist's article, which must sadly be presumed to better reflect the state of mind of our political and business leaders about European energy and Russian gas than the papers of academics or inlookers.

That article focuses on two things, which will not come as a surprise, despite their inherent contradiction:

  • Europe must take a tougher, more united, line against Russia
  • Europe must break up its cartelised market and open up to real competition in order to provide alternatives to Russian gas;
You can stop here for now; I add below some comments on various offensive bits of the article in the Economist.

:: ::

A bear at the throat

The European Union is belatedly grasping the riskiness of its dependence on Russian gas, but it is disunited and short of ideas for how to reduce it

Again, right from the first sentence, boiling blood. It is not the "European Union" that has decided to be worried about its dependence on Russian gas, it is the UK government, nudged by Cheney & co in Washington. France, Germany and Italy, as well as the Central European new members, who are the main importers of Russian gas in the EU, have long been aware of the the significance of importing large volumes of gas from Russia while being completely or mostly dependent on imported gas for domestic needs, and have managed the issue accordingly. Those Central Europeans that are wary of Russia are happy to use the issue to get the rest of Europe to worry more about Russia, but, in practice, as they are the first to be served on the pipelines, it is impossible to cut them and not the rest of the EU, so the risk for them is actually no worse than it is for France or Germany. Even better, they can 'force' solidarity by simply turning the taps.

Thus, as usual for the Economist, "disunited" just means that not all Europeans are on the US line (inspired by hawks around Cheney and helped by Condoleeza Rice's apparent nostalgia for the Soviets), as channelled by the Blair government (and the Poles all too happy to pile in on anything that can be used to bash Russia).

[the exact same" divisions have been on display this year, with "Old Europe", led by France, Germany and Italy, being a lot less aggressive towards Russia than the UK and the US - and central Europe]

RUSSIA'S president, Vladimir Putin, must be feeling smug. His strategy of using the country's vast natural resources to restore the greatness lost after the break-up of the Soviet Union seems to be paying off. If power is measured by the fear instilled in others—as many Russians believe—he is certainly winning.

"As many Russians believe"?? Or as the gang in Washington has proven is the only rule they ever follow? Bluster, threats, unilateral action, the odd bombing or occupation of countries, blatant disrespect for the domestic laws of vassals, encirclement by bases, etc... Anybody that refuses to let American oil majors invest in their country declared an enemy and treated as such? Fearmongering at home and attempts at brutish dominance outside have been the trademark tools of the Bush administration. That the Russians respond in kind, especially when they have a strong bargaining position, is hardly surprising nor shocking, if unpleasant from our pespective.

And yet, in this case, to fear him is our choice, because gas trade is a fundamentally bilateral endeavour: the interdependence is mutual, structurally created by expensive infrastructure which hard to replace and impossible to divert to other uses - and codified in long term contracts that reflect the need for each party that the other side perform its obligations for a very long time.

[it seems very little has changed in the terms of the debate, except an additional demonstration, which was apparently needed by some, of Russia's willingness AND ability to "respond in kind" brutally.]

The EU has few ideas for how to deal with its chief energy supplier. “We know we should do something about Russia, but we don't know what,” one Brussels official says. “In the EU we negotiate on the rules, whereas Russia wants to do deals.”

Heh, guess what: the EU does not set the rules for what it does not control. Russia's position is a lot more realistic: the two blocs can only do bilateral deals. But that's a market for you: you only enter into deals that are favorable to you, right? We should never forget this: the Russians have no obligations to sell us any of their gas, only to deliver when they contracted to do so - and they will only contract if it is of any benefit for them. Being bound by EU rules might be beneficial for them, but that's not, as of today, how they see the future of Russia, and there's little we can do about that. Threatening noises are not going to help, there.

[that lesson does not seem to have sunk in, yet: Russia does not have to sell us their gas. If we keep on treating them like an enemy, maybe they won't be as inclined to sell their gas to us. Is this ever taken into account today, or do we still consider that they just have to sell all the gas we want?]

Yet dependence cuts both ways. Europe may depend on Russia for half its gas imports, but Russia is dependent on Europe for the bulk of its export revenues. Repeated threats by the Kremlin to divert the flow of gas to China mean little without pipelines that it would take many years to build. Switching off gas to Europe will never make commercial sense for Gazprom. The fear in some EU countries is that commercial interests may one day become secondary to political ones.

A rare moment of sanity in that article (even if it suggests that the disputes with Ukraine and Belarus were about political issues rather than commercial ones, something I vigorously contest and debunked extensively in my text above). And yet the Economist continues to encourage the fearmongering and the strategy of alienating the Russians politically, by refusing to take their point of view into consideration, by blatantly provoking them with the missiles in Central Europe, and generally treating them as dangerous neighbors.

[No change here today. In fact, it is remarkable how little difference there is is our policies towards Russia then and today: it's all about bluster and sanctimonious bullshit, with very little actual action on the ground. It's hard to find a better sign of the total absurdity and incompetence - and powerlessness - of such policies than the new "facts on the ground" created by Russia in the past couple of weeks. My theory, of course, is that our Russia policy is not actually addressed at Russia, but is simply meant as a distraction in domestic politics: a foreign enemy is always a convenient rallying point for politicians facing difficulties otherwise.]

If all this is not worrying enough, there is another, more immediate source of concern for the EU: that Russia may be physically unable to produce enough gas to satisfy demand. Even worse than being dependent on a company like Gazprom may be to be dependent on a Gazprom that is short of gas.

The output of Gazprom's three super-giant fields, which account for three-quarters of its production, is declining at a rate of some 6-7% a year. Output from a new gas field brought on stream in 2001 has already peaked. Last year, Gazprom decided to develop a massive field in the Yamal peninsula—frozen and barren Arctic land—but that will take years. Meanwhile, Russia's domestic demand for gas is growing by more than 2% a year. For all its swagger, Russia is short of gas, a problem that is already affecting its electricity-generation capacity. This does not reflect any lack of reserves—Russia has the world's biggest—but rather a longstanding failure to invest enough in their development.

Gazprom has argued that it will invest in new fields only if it can pre-sell the output to Europe. Instead it has been spending lavishly on pipelines and downstream assets.

This reflects the pessimstic view on the long term prospects for Russian exports to Europe, in that the Russians are not doing what they should to deliver all the gas that will be needed (of course, the underlying assumption is that such need itself is not even open for discussion - we need the gas, dammit!). It does reflect an interested agenda as, again, the view that underpins this is that the Russians are really too corrupt to take care of that important business, and they should let "serious" people (like Shell or BP) take care of it.

It also reflects a fundamental ignorance of the structure of the gas business, where the downstream transport infrastructure is the single most important bit of it (being both the most expensive and the most complex, politically and commercially, to set up). Thus blaming Gazprom for investing in export pipelines - and even in distribution capacity at the end of the chain - is like criticizing an icecream merchant for investing in refrigerators...

And it ignores both the way Gazprom behaves (it has always sought to export as much gas as it could), and the point that Gazprom has been repeatedly making (the upfront investments needed to increase production require predictable future flows and thus long term contracts). So far, Gazprom has always produced enough to ensure that it can both export and supply the vital domestic needs. There is no compelling argument yet to say that this will no longer be the case, other than the self-interested lobbying of the Western energy majors and their shareholders. On the other hand, as has been discussed on the Oil Drum (for instance here), there is some doubt on the long term availability of reserves, but that's not the point made by the Economist, which focuses on investment capacity in the medium term (an argument also used for the oil side, to blame the national oil companies and avoid the "peak oil" debate).

Vladimir Milov, the head of the Institute of Energy Policy in Moscow, says that the links between Gazprom and its European counterparts amount to a cartel between wholesale buyers and sellers. The losers in this game are European consumers who are forced to pay gas prices that are several times higher than the wholesale price which their national companies pay to Gazprom.

Considering that gas prices are [contractually] linked, for very obvious reasons, to oil prices (oil products being the simplest substitute to gas for many of its uses), wholesale prices are what they are. The issue here seems unrelated to Gazprom, in that the Economists lambasts "national companies" (read: the evil French government) for making money off domestic customers. But hey, blame Gazprom anyway.

The best way to increase the EU's energy security would be for it to liberalise its own market and unbundle its national utilities. This would cut profit margins in gas distribution, and thereby reduce Gazprom's appetite for European domestic assets.

I thought the problem was the domination of national markets by former incumbents? Surely Gazprom coming into these markets would provide more competition and lower prices? But in any case, while I understand how that might lower prices for consumers, I fail to see how it would impact in any way wholesale prices, and thus Gazprom's willingness or not to sell us gas.

The European Commission has been urging EU members to break up their vertically integrated energy companies, but France and Germany are resisting. The problem, says the commission, is that national governments do not understand the link between liberalisation and greater energy security.

Or maybe they actually understand it, because they've been working on security for the past 40 years? Liberalisation can help those that did not make the effort to set up long term contracts, diversify sources, build storage capacity to freeride on those that did. No wonder the careful planners are a bit wary of seeing their insousciant neighbors, who have spent the past 30 years scoffing at their prudence while sitting on the North Sea treasure, now claiming their "solidarity" now that the treasure (which they did not share for the greater good of European energy security) is gone.


Origin of natural gas, France. Source: Gaz de France


Source: Financial Times

Europe is also talking of building more LNG terminals that can be stocked by other suppliers.(...) But LNG is expensive, and generally involves inflexible long-term sales contracts. Moreover, the IEA's projections assume that the Europeans overcome their squeamishness about building ugly LNG terminals. Equally improbably, they assume that Russia will not find some way to impede the emergence of rival exporters.

Another unguarded moment of clarity: LNG requires inflexible long term contracts, just like pipelines... It is usually touted as the way to bring spot markets to gas by the most breathless enthusiasts...but in fact it creates almost the same kind of highly interdependant relationships as pipelines. Arbitrage will take place to some extent (by diverting a cargo from one destination to another, when profitable), but will remain a small part of the business.

But the comment about Gazprom being able to "impede the emergence of rival exporters" somehow attributes a lot of power to Gazprom. Or is it an unwilling acknowledgement that Gazprom dominates the European gas market because its gas is, you know,... cheaper? That it's more competitive than alternatives? Hmmm... Of course - that's why we hate them for sitting on that treasury and not letting us grab a slice of the pile.

Russia's ability to cause harm to itself and to others in the cause of proving its greatness should never be underestimated.

Yeah, stupid Russians. Better to blame them rather than ourselves for our inability to even consider burning less of the stuff.

[One year has gone, and very little progress has been made on the substance of our energy policies. Or, for that matter, on our approach to Russia. On what we could actually do, I wrote this last week. On what we'll do, I have no doubt that bluster and scapegoating, fearmongering and distraction will continue to rule rather than actual policies to tackle the real underlying issue of increased energy scarcity and cost for us. One could even argue, if one accepts the "energy weapon" theory, that Russia is doing us a service by pointing out our vulnerability and apparent powerlessness against energy bullies, and by pushing us towards real long term solutions, but so far the only solutions that seem to be contemplated following such a warning are to talk about going, again, to war, and to do, in the meantime nothing at all - either to prepare for war, or to use energy differently. But boy do we talk loudly.]

Display:


CORRUPTION, NOT DEPENDENCY IS THE RISK TO WESTERN EUROPE FROM RUSSIAN ENERGY TRADE by Keith C. Smith

The growing dependency in Europe on non-transparent financial transfers in the energy trade is as great a danger to Europe as is the increasing dependency on Russia as the primary energy source.  Non-transparent and corrupt business practices can have a corrosive effect on European governments, and especially on the new EU member states of East Central Europe. Western energy companies trying to conduct business in Russia, Ukraine or in Central Asia confront constant pressure from local officials and energy companies to engage in shady business practices when considering investment decisions.  Record high energy prices have increased opportunities for non-transparent Russian state companies to secure influence among Western governments and with political and economic elites in neighboring states.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 10:54:17 AM EST
excellent diary, J.

if truth were told, you should be on the FT and Economist front pages.

very illuminating, if depressing with regard to our idiot strategy.

by our own addiction to blind consumption, and worse, to bellicose swaggering to boil voters' blood domestically, we are forcing russia to regress to the paranoia of the cold war era.

it is exquisitely frustrating and disheartening to watch this unfold in real time... and to see the gains. socially, culturally and economically. made by the EU these last decades, thrown on the fires of greed and political machinations, in order to resurrect an era that is sickly familiar, and therefore attractively, pathologically comfortable to those wrinkled armchair warriors and death merchants whose superannuated policies are still wagging the media's tail.

this blog is many things to all of us, but what's at stake here, and the impassioned, yet cool-headed style and content you bring to these instructive diaries makes them the heart and dominant drive of this enterprise..

all the best, many thanks for what you do for euro-sanity.

...and godspeed your messages of reason, common sense and good will.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 02:14:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comments are much appreciated.

These articles seem to be getting fewer and fewer comments. Is it because I'm just repeating the same things over and over again?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 05:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's probably more likely that you get comments if people disagree with you.

Your analysis and critique, always supported cogently by facts, is pretty difficult to disagree with.

Absolutely first rate.

It's when we get to proposals for solutions that the debate gets going!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 06:31:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Jerome has convinced the regulars here, should we try to reach others and bring them here?

I mean in any organised way?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 07:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you're welcome!

i remember thinking once ET was your vanity blog, that's how ignorant i was.

now i see it more like you sharpen your skills here, sparring with us, but you should be playing the big leagues...

and increasingly you are.

we're your amen corner, you're testifying.

reality will bear you out, and offer you more readers, you don't need to do anything different...if you weren't a front pager i bet you'd get all kinds of recs, i don't thankyou every diary, but i probably should, as i'm learning - and enjoying - your growing skills at combining a reality-based message with superior writing ability.

you reach many more at dkos than here, there your influence is massive, here we are already on board!

anyway, fantastique!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 03:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...My theory, of course, is that our Russia policy is not actually addressed at Russia, but is simply meant as a distraction in domestic politics: a foreign enemy is always a convenient rallying point for politicians facing difficulties otherwise.]

Who would have thougt? :-)
by Bernard on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 10:54:18 AM EST
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/24/101750/441/598/574009

with "Biden" in the title to have a chance... (guess how)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 10:55:41 AM EST
Russia's oil boom may be running on empty

he Russian oil boom, which has produced a gusher of cash, political power and an opulent elite - and has helped fuel the country's renewed assertiveness in Georgia and elsewhere - is on shakier ground than officials in Moscow would like to admit.

Most of the oil produced after the country's 1998 financial collapse has come from drilling and re-drilling old Soviet oil fields with more advanced equipment - squeezing more black gold out of the same ground - and efforts to develop new fields have been slow or non-existent.

That strategy is potentially disastrous, said Valery Kryukov, who researches oil companies in western Siberia for a government-funded think tank.

I have no expertise, but the McClatchy newspapers have a history of finding stories that other, bigger outlets overlook.


Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 11:16:03 AM EST
that's the real long term worry. The decline of Russian oil has long been predicted (and now, noted) on the Oil Drum, and is part of the general peak oil trend in mature regions.

Thr situation for gas is a lot more uncertain, and given that gas is traded only along existing infrastructure rather than globally, it will be a bigger problem for Europe. But the date of decline is harder to predict.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 01:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Austria, France, Germany and Italy have built gas storage facilities that are close to 25% of their annual consumption. It is not the case for UK...



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 12:07:28 PM EST
Source: Le stockage de gaz naturel en France et en Europe.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 12:09:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • one of the more interesting aspects of Russian-Ukrainian gas disputes is that most of the useful storage capacity of the Soviet gas system was (and still is) in Western Ukraine: it's ideally located to help make exports smoother over the year by allowing to strain the Russian network less during the winter months. But of course, it is under Ukrainian control. So the basic logistics of Russian exports depend on Ukrainian good will;

  • GDF has long seen its storage capacity as a strategic (and valuable) resource, and has fought very hard to keep control of it rather than let it pass under the control of the network operator.

  • I'll also note that France has, coincidentally (lol), storage capacity which is equal to its yearly imports from Russia.

But strategic thinking is so passé.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 01:31:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My theory, of course, is that our Russia policy is not actually addressed at Russia, but is simply meant as a distraction in domestic politics: a foreign enemy is always a convenient rallying point for politicians facing difficulties otherwise.

That is certainly my theory on the role of the Georgia problem in current US politics.  While the Bush Admin. had their engrossing distraction in Iraq going full tilt they didn't need any problems with Russia.  Of course they never gave any credit to Russia for anything, and on the domestic front portrayed their relations with Russia as being due to neo-con policies having cowed Russia into submission.

How has policy towards Russia in Europe correlated with domestic politics prior to 2007?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 01:05:35 PM EST
Depends on which parts of Europe you're talking about.

In Denmark, Russia hasn't been a big issue outside the Ukrainian Gas Crisis and the Georgian Crisis, and there the reaction has mostly been plagiarising the Anglo-American line. Oh, and a couple of hard words have been exchanged over Chechen separatists speaking in Denmark, and the Danish refusal to extradite said Chechen separatists to Russia. But that's about it since Putin's first election.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Aug 24th, 2008 at 03:45:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A matter on which I am puzzled -- how far is it possible, looking longer term, for Russia to diversify its exports?

Discussing recent talks in Beijing between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and his Chinese counterpart Vice Premier Wang Oishan in an article in Asia Times last month, the former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar quoted a commentary in China Daily:


Without getting into details, China Daily merely took note of the talks as "a good beginning" and commented, "It seems that a shift of Russia's energy export policy is under way. Russia might turn its eyes from the Western countries to the Asia-Pacific region ... The cooperation in the energy sector is an issue of great significance for Sino-Russian relations ... the political and geographic closeness of the two countries would put their energy cooperation under a safe umbrella and make it a win-win deal. China-Russia ties are at their best times ... The two sides settled their lingering border disputes, held joint military exercises, and enjoyed rapidly increasing bilateral trade."'

In a slightly earlier article, Bhadrakumar noted the importance of diversification to the East in the energy diplomacy which Medvedev has been pursuing, if anything, even more robustly than Putin.


Soon after taking over in the Kremlin in May, Medvedev ordered the expeditious completion of the first stage of the Eastern Siberia Pacific Oil Pipeline (ESPO) by end-2009. The ESPO has a vital role in Moscow's efforts to balance its oil export strategy between Europe and Asia-Pacific. Moscow hopes to target Asia-Pacific as the export destination for one-third of its oil exports by 2020, as compared to 3% currently.'

How far -- looking ten or indeed twenty years ahead -- is diversification realistic, given the constraints imposed by the problems of transport?

by djhabakkuk (david daught habakkuk at o two daught co daught uk) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 10:14:09 AM EST
If I recall what little Russian geography I know correctly, there's an awful long way from the fields that supply Europe to China - and an equally long way from the fields that can supply China to Europe... I don't know whether it's doable, but even if it is, it would require quite a lot of pipeline.

'Course, if the Russians can sell gas to China then they might become able to simply keep the Western gas in the ground...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 01:57:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China will eventually get Russian gas - once it agrees to pay the necessary price for it (ie more expensive than its coal is). That will probably require another 10-15 years, if not more.

But China will never get gas that would otherwise go to Europe, it will get gas from East Siberian fields that can only ever be used for that purpose. So such sales would only come in addition to, and separately from, European sales. They will provide some measure of diversification of revenue streams to Russia, but no additional physical leverage against Europe. But as Europe does not even acknowledge that we hold an "energy (payments) weapon" against Russia, this is all irrelevant, right?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 at 05:55:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[Jake's tinfoil hat technology(TM)]

Except insofar as it might allow the Ruskies to stop selling us our! gas because they have an alternative revenue stream to make up for lost profits.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 02:31:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But China will never get gas that would otherwise go to Europe, it will get gas from East Siberian fields that can only ever be used for that purpose.

They could also turn it into LNG and sell it to the entire pacific basin.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Aug 26th, 2008 at 11:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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