The EU Gets Real About Energy Security

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 6.


Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

On July 6, the European Parliament, one of the most liberal legislatures in the world, voted to classify certain nuclear and natural gas projects as environmentally safe. The move brings these projects into line with previous European Union legislation that withheld government support for projects deemed unsustainable. This legislation contributed to disproportionate investment in unreliable renewable energy infrastructure in the EU. When these failed, Russian natural gas, delivered via Russian infrastructure, served as a backup.

Although the European Parliament’s announcement paid lip service to the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and its determination to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, it represents a seismic shift in Europe’s energy policies, which now appear to recognize that progress in Towards a cleaner environment will be a Pyrrhic victory at the cost of the continent’s security and prosperity.

With Vladimir Putin poised to exploit Europe’s dependence on its energy resources to neutralize EU support for Ukraine, the inadequacy of renewable energy will soon be fully revealed. Russian gas has continued to flow into Europe since Mr Putin’s invasion in February, although Europe has struggled to find alternatives. But alternatives are hard to come by, especially as the world’s largest natural gas producer, the US, is signaling that it will further restrict leases for further development. Most of the natural gas flowing out of the Persian Gulf is already tied up with customers in Asia.

This increases the stakes for the annual maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which begins July 11. The work should last 10 days, after which more than 40 percent of European gas, which still comes from Russia, should flow again. But many fear Mr Putin may not restart the pipeline given his success in selling Russian oil and gas to India and China, as well as his established record in using energy as leverage.

Mr Putin toyed with the taps last summer, causing Europe’s winter gas stocks to fill up at a slower rate than usual, nearly sparking a crisis in October as prices soared and countries like the UK were forced to Coal-fired power plants to restart the shortfall. His ostensible goal in 2021 was to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have sent even more Russian gas to Europe but had been rejected by the Trump administration and US Congress.

Mr Putin’s technique worked when the Europeans, led by the Germans, pushed for Nord Stream 2. President Biden lobbied Senate Democrats to vote against punitive sanctions on the pipeline to keep Russian gas flowing to Europe. Europeans firmly opposed Nord Stream 2 only after Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

The EU’s actions on nuclear power and natural gas are recognition that Mr Putin may soon return to energy blackmail as he seeks to end strong European support for Kyiv. Last but not least, Mr Putin’s threat has forced Europe to balance its other-worldly climate aspirations with the energy needs of its citizens, a welcome hint that sanity and practicality may be returning to the debate on how to fuel the future.

The decision of the European Parliament could mean a broader phenomenon. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent ouster was largely the result of personal scandals, but dissatisfaction with his progressive energy and climate policies in the face of rising energy prices also played a role. Meanwhile, farm workers in the Netherlands are staging massive protests against new draconian climate regulations that could put 30% of farms out of work – at a moment when the world desperately needs their produce.

US policymakers planning this month to spend some $300 billion in additional taxpayer dollars on extreme environmental protections that would only further undermine America’s energy superpower status should take note and follow the EU’s lead.

Ms. Coates is the author of David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art. From 2019-20, she was Assistant National Security Advisor to the White House.

Review & Outlook: Boris Johnson brought about Britain’s exit from the European Union, but then failed to capitalize on the UK’s newfound freedom to regulate, opting instead to rule from the left before scandals like Partygate erupted. Images: AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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