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EU Energy Crisis and Looking Back 20/20 Vision

by Oui Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 06:45:00 AM EST

Japan marks a decade since Fukushima nuclear disaster | DW News - March 2021 |

Environmental groups have said the effort to decommission the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is hopeless. Some local residents fear it's not safe to return to communities that were beneath the radioactive plume.

High energy costs could hurt German industry | Reuters - Nov. 8, 2012 |

  • US companies benefit from cheap shale gas - BDI
  • German energy policy could cost $446bn by 2030
  • Asian industrials also worried by their high gas costs

German industrials are concerned they will lose a competitive edge against rivals in the United States, where a boom in unconventional shale gas production has led to a sharp drop in industrial energy costs, industry lobby group BDI said.

German energy costs, by contrast, are rising as its government has decided to exit nuclear power generation, invest billions of euros into expanding the renewable generation sector while largely relying on imports to meet its natural gas demand.

Germany's economy, Europe's biggest, relies heavily on energy intensive industries such as chemical production from industry leaders such as BASF or Bayer or the automobile sector.

Quoting industry experts, the BDI said the U.S. shale gas boom could lead to a re-industrialisation of the United States and warned this effect will not be replicated to the same extent in Europe.

U.S. wholesale natural gas prices currently costs around $3.5 per MMBtu, compared with $9 per MMBtu in Europe.

Today's US News: US natural gas futures fell almost 9% to below $8.3/MMBtu, after US railroads and unions reached an agreement to avert a railroad strike that was expected to force generators to burn more gas to produce electricity. Prices surged 10% in the previous session, boosted by higher demand forecast and more coal-to-gas switching in case of the rail strike.

Asian Industrials Also Worried

Similar concerns are also being raised in Asia, where industry makes up a large share of economic output in leading economies such as Japan and South Korea, who are the world's biggest importers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Rising dependence on natural gas imports risks driving key Asian economies such as Japan down in the global ranking of industrial economies.

In the first half of 2012, Japan bought 18.6 percent more LNG compared to the previous year, but the cost of these purchases rose 49.2 percent which was enough to drive Japan's first trade deficit in 31 years.

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in March last year and resulting idling of the country's nuclear power plant fleet spurred soaring imports of substitute fuels like LNG, causing a record 2.5 trillion yen ($31.30 billion) trade deficit in the first half of 2012.

One hope for European and Asian industrials is that U.S. gas prices may not stay low forever.

Handout: German Energy security - after Fukushima and Nord Stream|

Germany's decision to phase out the use of nuclear energy by 2022 was taken by the government of the SPD (Gerhard Schröder) and Alliance '90/The Greens. The year 2000 was an important milestone for the anti-nuclear movement in that country. The movement started at the beginning of the 1970s and has been significantly active since then.

After the Chernobyl incident of 1986, the German public became especially interested in the risks associated with the production of nuclear energy. This concern grew throughout the years, and resulted in the election of a coalition government in 1998 which included the anti-nuclear Green Party, Alliance `90/The Greens. Although the Green Party mustered only 6.7% of the total votes, it was able to have considerable influence and to achieve its long-sought goal of instituting a nuclear exit law.

Germany reached an agreement with energy companies on the gradual shut down of the 19 nuclear power plants → enacted as the Nuclear Exit Law. Based on the calculation of 32 years as the usual time of operation for a nuclear power plant. Two power plants were turned off in 2003 and 2005.

Phase-out plan was delayed in late 2010, when during the chancellorship of Angela Merkel the conservative-liberal government decreed a 12-year delay of the schedule. It provoked protests.

My recent diary ...

Russian Gas Made Europe a Global Leader

The Shale gas 'revolution' in the United States: Global implications, options for the EU | Jan. 2013 |

In recent years, the United States' natural gas industry has undergone a significant transformation, dubbed a 'revolution': extraction rates have soared thanks to new technologies. The shale gas boom is having an unprecedented affect on the US energy market, and this, in turn, has important implications for the rest of the world, notably the Middle East and Russia.

While the shale gas 'revolution' has spurred a debate on environmental consequences and sustainability within the US, other countries -- including countries as diverse as Canada - Nova Scotia - and China -- have, in different ways, aimed to replicate the US boom. In the EU, a shale gas 'revolution' appears relatively unlikely, at least for the moment, given Europe's less favourable geological conditions and its wary public. Nevertheless, some EU Member States rich in shale gas, such as Poland and the United Kingdom, are actively promoting shale gas exploration activities to diversify their energy mix, reduce energy dependency and enhance energy security.

Other countries, such as France and Bulgaria, have for the moment chosen to privilege environmental constraints and have implemented bans. The remaining Member States seem to have adopted a 'wait-and-see' attitude. For all these states, however, the EU has an important role to play in ensuring a balanced common approach and encouraging the sustainable development of this industry while ensuring an adequate environmental protection. A recent Commission green paper on shale gas is a good initial step, although this should be followed with concrete action.

Vice President Joe Biden's son joins Ukraine gas company | BBC News - May 14, 2014 |

The Geopolitics of Shale Gas | HCSS - 2014 |

The growth in domestic natural gas production in the United States (US), led by the increased development of shale resources and a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or `fracking' for short, has fundamentally altered the US energy landscape. Simultaneously, the same extraction technology is spurring the production of unconventional oil resources (shale oil and tight oil) and has set the US on course to become the world's premier oil producer by the mid 2020s.

Where successive US Presidents since the 1970s have advocated for a lessened dependence on foreign energy supplies, the `shale revolution' seems to have finally turned this dream into a reality. Globally, this development is likely to have a significant bearing on international relations. A US which is less dependent on foreign energy supplies has more freedom of maneuver in its foreign policy. Moreover, this is likely to affect the global energy mix as well as US and wider relations with traditional oil- and natural gas-exporting countries.

This study employs an innovative new computer modeling technique in an attempt to answer the extent to which, as well as how, the US' shale gas revolution impacts on the world in all its complexity. Specifically, it focuses on how the US' shale gas revolution may affect the stability of traditional oil- and natural gas-exporting countries near the European Union (EU). As the EU is heavily dependent on the import of oil and natural gas from countries in its immediate neighborhood, the extent to which the US shale gas revolution leaves its mark on Europe's backyard is a very relevant question to ask.

In today's world access to energy supplies still is a major factor in geopolitics. It is for this reason that the unprecedented changes in the US energy landscape cannot and should not be viewed in isolation. [Rob de Wijk - HCSS]

Opportunities Ukraine shale gas fracking - maps and contracts

Ukraine region rejects Chevron shale gas deal draft | Reuters - Aug. 20, 2013 |

Officials told Reuters that deputies in Ivano-Frankivsk region, in western Ukraine, had sent the draft back to the government, pressing for guarantees which would address their concerns over the exploration plans.

Chevron wants to tie up a deal to explore the Olesska shale field in western Ukraine. Royal Dutch Shell has already signed a $10 billion deal for shale exploration and extraction at the Yuzivska field in the east of the ex-Soviet republic.

European (dis)integration in multiple speeds | May 20, 2021 |

Motives for a multi-speed Europe. 

The deadlock of unanimity

The European Union is a vastly complex international organisation in which every decision needs to be checked by a variety of institutions before it can be implemented and maintained by the member states (MS). Of these institutions, the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission are the most important. Out of these three, the European Council is the most powerful, consisting of the government leaders and heads of states of the 27 MS. However, the council is also one of the most constrained institutions, due to constraints inherent to structure. This is namely caused by the wide variety of interests and opinions represented in this institution. However, what remains irrefragable is that the Council (meaning the MS) have the strongest voice in determining the course of the EU. Hence, the intergovernmental nature of the EU is stronger than its supranational nature. Still and all, decision making remains an arduous undertaking when 27 different negotiators have to reach a common consensus.

As the enlargement of the EU continued, the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 altered the manner of decision making which shifted from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV). This entails that a minimum of 55% of the MS - meaning a minimum of 15 out of the 27 - have to vote in favour. These MS have to simultaneously represent at least 65% of the total EU population. Unfortunately, this development did not mean a change to the fact that the Council is filled with ever existing contradicting national interests of the individual MS. In addition, the larger and course-altering decisions and treaties are still solely agreed upon through unanimity in the EU. Even if there is room for taking a decision through QMV, the MS almost reflexively seek consensus as to not antagonise those MS who do not agree. The origin of this tendency lies in the nature of the negotiations in the EU, namely that they never stop since there are always problems and issues that need to be sorted out.

Revolutionary breakthrough or old ideas in a new guise? 

The idea of a Europe that integrates at different speeds is a theme that has enjoyed some scholarly attention. It is not new and has already been applied in Europe. A clear example is the Eurozone, referring to the 19 countries within the EU27 that are using the Euro as their national currency. Consequently, there are still 8 countries who are not (yet) using the Euro. The theoretical understanding underlying this is elaborated upon by Professor Vivien Schmidt of Boston University in her work Re-envisioning the European Union from 2009.

    Over the past three decades, the EU has brought about massive economic transformation, extensive territorial expansion, and major democratic renewal. Today, however, the European economy is in crisis, enlargement in limbo, democracy under pressure. And disagreements continue about the most basic of questions concerning: What is the European Union? How far should it expand? What should it do in the world? EU identity, in other words, remains at issue as the European economy is headed into recession and as European democracy is stalled at the EU-level due to the delays on the Lisbon Treaty and increasingly volatile at the national level due at least in part to the EU itself.

She explains how the constant quest for unanimity is creating a de facto mutual hostage situation, in which a few member states are capable of blocking or weakening important developments and legislation, even if there is wide support amongst the other MS. This phenomenon can easily be seen as troublesome for current and future European cooperation. When decision making is hampered by the sheer variety of national interests combined with the existing tendency to seek consensus, ineffective policy and a consequent standstill is the outcome. When this occurs, the discontentment concerning the EU will increase which harms its political legitimacy. Therefore, it would be no understatement to conclude that this is a fundamental threat to the Union. 


'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 08:05:18 AM EST
Schmidt Explores New Directions for the Future of the EU | Boston U. - Sept. 22, 2022 |

Joining Schmidt on the panel, titled "New Directions for the Future of the EU," was Amelia Hadfield, Dean International, Head of the Department of Politics, and Founder/Former Co-Director of the Centre for Britain and Europe (CBE) at the University of Surrey; as well as Amy Verdun, professor of political science at the University of Victoria. The session was chaired by Andrew Glencross, Professor of Political Science and Deputy Director for International Affairs at the Université Catholique de Lille.

In her remarks, Schmidt suggested that the future of Europe depends on which of three `big' ideas becomes dominant. She posed questions on the future of the union, including: will Europe move forward through progressivism, with new EU-level resources to ensure cooperation on investment in the future in response to Europe's many crises, such as on economics, energy, climate, and security? Will it move backward through a resilient neo-liberalism, where austerity would return in response to fears of inflation, without common resources to address the challenges together? Or will it go off the rails with populism, in which case all bets are off?

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 08:05:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Multi-speed Concept is in the European Union's DNA

Differentiated integration is in the centre of a renewed debate on the future of the eurozone, and, many claim, threatens to deepen the apparent divides (East/West or euro/non-eurozone Member States) and eventually lead to the disintegration of the EU.

But the notion of a "multi-speed" Europe is by no means new. Accommodating Member States' differing socio-economic and political interests in EU law and policy has been integral to European integration since the Treaty of Rome. Perhaps this debate was not on the table in the 1960s and 1970s but it became lively during the late 1990s in view of the 'big bang' enlargement in 2004 when the EU was about to start dealing with different levels of ambition within an ever larger and less homogeneous Union.

So far, prominent examples of 'exible' arrangements include the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Schengen Agreement or, just recently, the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). They show that allowing "those who want to do more" does not necessarily result in the "liquidation of the European Union". Just the opposite, it helps to overcome deadlock. In some cases, integration among some is preferred to standstill for all.

'Two-Speed' Europe: A Plan For EU Unity Or Disintegration? | RFERL - March 28, 2017 |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 08:12:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sinking Titanic is symbolic for the European Union as a whole. I never realized it could sink, symbolic for the British to leave a sinking ship as the 27 countries all row in opposite directions. The US and later Russia undermined the EU-28. I had not expected Boris would return with a war battleship to finish off the EU. #Ukraine 🇺🇦

Mission of EU on Road to Failure

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  • 'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 10:52:53 AM EST
    Reading the Tea Leaves In The White House | Feb 12th, 2021 |

    Joe Biden was a fervent backer of the Russian reset button - Cold War 2.0 - leading foreign policy during the Obama administration. With many advisors in key position, Putin and Lavrov will raise the castle bridge to weather the coming assault.

    Objective of the United States with its tool NATO to declare Russia the enemy state, after calling out to make the sovereign nation a "pariah" state ... decades of deceit and aggression. #StopNato

    World War III almost happened on this day, 30 years ago | by Magnifico on Sep 25th, 2013 |

    Stanislav Petrov had just settled into the commander's chair for night duty when the Soviet Union's early-warning satellite system reported that all hell was breaking loose.

  • U-2 Spy Plane Incident in the Eisenhower Era

  • 'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 10:54:21 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    by Cat on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 03:28:48 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    Are these people in Berlin for real? #greendeal #dreamers

    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 01:44:15 PM EST
    Habeck Is Deliberately Playing with Fire

    The operating company of one of the nuclear power plants still connected to the grid had previously emphasized that a nuclear power plant cannot simply be restarted after it has been shut down, and certainly not quickly. It was also pointed out the immense risks of the approach planned by Habeck. A restart with a core in stretching mode has never been practiced. Testing a process that has never been practiced should not coincide with a critical state and is not compatible with the security architecture. #chernobyl

    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 01:55:39 PM EST
    DW | O. Look. Finders, keepers!, 16 Sep
    The government has placed the Russian oil giant's three refineries in Germany under ["]trusteeship["] as it seeks to manage the impact of the energy crisis.
    when the EU Russian oil price cap embargo arrives
    The German government has taken the German subsidiary of Russian oil giant Rosneft under state control, putting it into the trusteeship of the Federal Network Agency regulator.

    Rosneft Deutschland accounts for about 12% of Germany's oil processing capacity and is one of the largest oil processing companies in the country, the Economy Ministry [dont-say-Habeck] said in a statement.

    It follows a similar move by Berlin with SEFE, formerly known as Gazprom Germania, which came under trusteeship after the Russian company Gazprom ditched it in April....

    by Cat on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 03:40:32 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    While Robert Habeck, the German vice-chancellor and Minister of Economy and Climate Action, has yet to comment, a press release sent out by his ministry informed journalists of the step. A press conference by Scholz and Habeck is set for 13:30 on Friday, 16 September.
    by Cat on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 04:49:55 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Helsingin Samonat | Germany is already getting rid of the second main condition of the Uniper agreement - can pay Uniper and Fortum four billion more, 16 Sep "cold turkey" recap
    In the agreement between the German government, Uniper and Fortum, it was agreed that Uniper can transfer 90 percent of the gas price increase to its customers from the beginning of October. According to information obtained by Reuters, this is being delayed by a month.
    Uniper is committed to supplying gas to its customers with long fixed-price contracts. When Gazprom's gas deliveries ended, the company has had to buy gas from the market at up to ten times the price.
    The news was leaked from German government sources at the same time that Uniper's new bailout package is being negotiated. German government sources have also conveyed a message through the media that the goal is now to nationalize Uniper.
    archived: EC | The internal market in energy: (2002)
    IN JULY, the German state, Fortum and Uniper agreed that the German state will capitalize and lend Uniper a total of around 15 billion euros. The agreement meant that Fortum's 78 percent ownership share was reduced to 56 percent. The German state would get 30 percent of the company.

    The agreement also included a convertible bond arrangement, which meant that Fortum would have to capitalize Uniper with another four billion euros in the coming years if it wanted to retain the majority in the company.

    According to Fortum's press release, it was also written into the agreement that if Uniper's additional losses exceed seven billion euros, the German government would help the company more. The aim would be to do this without further loosening the ownership of the owners.
    If Uniper is nationalized, the value of the shares purchased by Fortum will drop to zero. However, Fortum must receive some kind of compensation for its ownership. In addition to the loss-making natural gas business, Uniper has valuable nuclear and hydropower assets in Sweden, for example.

    MORE THAN HALF OF FORTUM is owned by the Finnish state, and therefore the fate of Uniper is also a political issue in Finland.

    Owner guidance minister Tytti Tuppurainen (sd) told HS on Wednesday that Finland demands the return of at least eight billion euros in funding granted by Fortum as a price for the nationalization of Uniper [by FI]. However, Fortum has very few bargaining chips.

    Dance, Sana, dance!
    by Cat on Sat Sep 17th, 2022 at 01:51:16 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 06:17:34 PM EST
    Ende Gelände blockades 'fossil capitalism'

    Activists occupied the construction site for the planned liquefied natural gas terminal in Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony. And blockaded the railway lines and bridges used to import and process fossil gas, oil and coal.

    Since 2015, Ende Gelände has predominantly targeted brown coal in Germany which along with other groups like the Hambacher Forest occupation succeeded in pushing for a coal phase-out in Germany.

    However, the new Social Democrat and Green Party coalition government have made clear that they intend to follow the British Government's dash for gas.

    The initiative led by the Green Party intends to build twelve liquefied natural gas terminals in the Hamburg area and have them operated by energy companies until 2043.

    Similar to the UK the German government is using the war in Ukraine as a pretext to double down on fossil fuel consumption including ramping up fossil gas imports and potentially re-opening decommissioned coal power stations.

    'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Fri Sep 16th, 2022 at 06:20:05 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    E.ON has informed the German government of a leak at the Isar 2 nuclear power plant

    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Mon Sep 19th, 2022 at 10:02:43 PM EST

    'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Tue Sep 20th, 2022 at 07:24:30 AM EST
    oilprice | Half Of France's Refinery Capacity Goes Offline As Worker Strike, 27 Sep
    Three of TotalEnergies' refineries and a storage site are not sending fuel as of Tuesday, an official at the French union CGT told Reuters.

    The 240,000 barrel per day (bpd) Gonfreville oil refinery operated by TotalEnergies, the 119,000 bpd Feyzin oil refinery, La Mede biorefinery, and the Cote d'Opale storage site near Dunkirk are not sending fuel currently, CGT delegate Thierry Defresne told Reuters.  

    The strike is expected to continue until September 29.

    Together with the strike at the ExxonMobil refineries, around half of France's refinery capacity is currently offline. France's crude refining capacity is just over 1.4 million bpd, the fourth highest in Europe after Germany, Italy, and Spain, according to the Oil & Gas Journal data cited by the EIA. ...

    by Cat on Tue Sep 27th, 2022 at 11:46:08 PM EST

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