Mills: Europe has no defense for Putin’s ‘gas weapon’

Alex Mills

International energy policy is playing a key role in the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. Russia sells natural gas to Europeans and it is not afraid to cut off supplies if challenged by European countries.

Russia used its “gas weapon” in 2006, 2008 and 2009 against its customers to the west.

Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas producer, says it provides about 30 percent of the natural gas that powers electric generation plants, manufacturing facilities and heats homes. How did the European Union – with member countries like Germany, France and Spain – become so dependent upon such a ruthless energy partner?

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The answer is that the EU bought the story of environmental groups that renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) could provide its energy needs if given enough subsidies.

The concept of introducing a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was enacted on Oct. 27, 2005. The policy was based upon cutting greenhouse gases, reducing the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and improving energy efficiency. The EU even created a cap-and-trade program to trade carbon coupons.

Sounds familiar to the Obama energy plan, doesn’t it?

So, how well has it worked?

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Energy consumers in Europe face rising prices – if, that is, Russia decides to sell them natural gas at all. Manufacturing plants are worried about being able to compete with other manufacturers around the world. Jobs are at risk.

There is no realistic prospect that renewable energy can provide the power the European Union needs to be competitive in the international marketplace. The cap-and-trade program has been a failure, too. In theory, cap-and-trade is a market-oriented program through which buyers and sellers trade emission certificates and everyone benefits. Carbon emissions decline through the reduction in the use of fossil fuels, which are replaced by wind and solar.

In reality, the plan amounts to nothing more than another tax and an additional cost of doing business in Europe.

The result of this pie-in-the-sky energy policy has put millions of Europeans at the mercy of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia is dealing from a position of strength. Putin can use his “natural gas weapon” to dictate the actions – or, in this case, the inaction – of European nations against the aggression of Russia in Ukraine.

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The European Union is dealing from a position of weakness, because it must have Russia’s natural gas. Wind and solar cannot provide the energy security that the EU needs.

Lawmakers in Washington need to learn from the mistakes made by the EU. They need to understand that increased production of crude oil and natural gas in the U.S. strengthens our national security.

Alex Mills is president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.