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Putin’s Energy Attack: Surviving a Warm Winter Battle is Not Winning the War

Though gas prices have fallen they are expected to rise again this Summer, so Europe can waste no more time diversifying its energy market, says Mark Temnycky

Defaced number plate of natural gas supplier in Germany. Photo: Joerg Boethling/Alamy

Putin’s Energy AttackSurviving a Warm Winter Battle is Not Winning the War

Though gas prices have fallen they are expected to rise again this Summer, so Europe can waste no more time diversifying its energy market, says Mark Temnycky

When the war in Ukraine began, the international community quickly condemned Russia. Countries around the world implemented stiff sanctions on Russian companies and officials. The European continent also announced that it would diversify its energy market, noting that it relied too heavily on Russian gas.

In response, Russia cut off most of its gas supply to Europe. This put the Europeans in a state of panic. Last autumn, several energy experts believed Europe would not be ready for the winter. As a result, the Europeans began to explore their options. Some countries increased their energy stockpiles. Others acknowledged that there would be energy shortages, and they sought methods to mitigate the effects of the upcoming winter.

But the severe weather never came. Over the past few weeks, Europe has been experiencing an unnaturally warm winter. The price of natural gas has declined, and European countries have had an opportunity to build up their gas inventory.

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Some in Europe have celebrated this turn of events, believing they overcame a potential energy crisis. But this joy is premature. Europeans should not let their guard down. Instead, they should use this as an opportunity to further diversify their energy market.

First, the European Union should continue purchasing natural gas from other suppliers. This would be a short-term solution. For example, EU members have turned to Norway, the United States, and several countries in the Middle East. This has led to the expansion of the natural gas market in Europe. Reduced demand for gas has also led to a temporary decline in gas prices. This has prevented Russia from establishing an energy monopoly in Europe.

While this is a good start, these effects will not last forever. Gas prices are expected to increase again this summer, and this would put Europe in a new energy predicament.

Instead, the Europeans should explore long-term solutions. One option is to transition from natural gas and fossil fuels to renewable and clean energy. This path would create new opportunities for citizens across the continent. It would create jobs as thousands of European workers would be required to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for renewables. This industry would help boost European economies and stimulate growth within the EU.

Recent reports have found that electricity is cheaper and more efficient than natural gas. The transition to alternative energy is economically feasible. To date, several countries are still recovering from the socio-economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Investing in this new industry and market would help the European continent return to a pre-Covid environment. 

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Third, pursuing alternative energy options would reduce carbon pollution on the European continent. This would create a cleaner and healthier environment, and it would enhance the quality of life for humans and wildlife in Europe.

Reducing natural gas and transitioning to clean energy would also help Europe stay on course to combat climate change. The European Commission previously outlined ambitious goals stating that Europe would “become climate neutral by 2030,” and that the European continent would reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. The implementation of clean energy would help the European continent achieve these goals, and help reduce pollution.

Transitioning from natural gas to alternative energy is not easy, nor will it be a swift process. But it is necessary. Investing in renewables will lead to new job opportunities and economic growth on the European continent. It will reduce Europe’s carbon footprint and dependence on gas. Finally, limiting the use of fossil fuels would lead to a healthier environment, and it would lessen the effects of climate change.

Opportunities exist for the Europeans to invest in a cleaner and more economically viable future. They must determine if they are ambitious enough to take them.

Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eastern Europe and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He can be found on Twitter@MTemnycky

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