Saturday 25 October 2014

Currently browsing 'Energy'



EU must be able to do without Russian gas

Posted by on 16/06/14
By Eberhard Rhein Rising fears in Europe about a potential embargo of Russian oil and gas embargo seem exaggerated. Yes: alternatives will come at a cost for the European gas consumer, who will have little choice but to pay an extra price for ensuring a reliable energy supply. But whether it is in the short, medium or long term, there is little reason for the EU to be afraid of a Russian gas embargo.

USA is joining the climate change fighting vanguard

Posted by on 10/06/14

After one year of intensive consultations with stakeholders the US Environmental Protection Agency has presented a 645 page (!) proposal containing the rules for C02 emissions that existing power plants will have to respect in the future. When adopted they will lead to a 30% fall of emissions from electricity generation until 2030, compared to 2005.

This proposal will be another US government executive ruling since the Administration had to abandon its hopes for passing climate legislation in the Congress in 2008.

Since 2009, US strategy focuses on the two main sources of C02 emissions, power generation and transport and is operating largely through tough efficiency standards carefully prepared with the stakeholders in view of facilitating their implementation.

For the power sector, which accounts for 38% of US C02 emissions, the rules for both existing and new power plants define the amount of C02 emissions allowed for generating one megawatt hour electricity.

The new ruling is likely to accelerate the on going trend toward gas-fired power plants. Coal power plants will only be able to survive through major efficiency improvements, which might not pay considering the average age of 40 years of some 800 existing coal power plants.

Resistance against the new proposal will therefore come primarily from the coal industry and the states depending on coal-powered electricity generation, though the industry had been warned by the 2013 rules for new power plants which are now being applied to existing ones.

To alleviate the resistance against its new rules the EPA invites each state to prepare, until June 2016, a plan for implementing the new rules that should take into account the energy mix and the efficiency of power industry. States will be free to choose the most suitable instruments for reaching the new standards: enhancing energy efficiency of the power plants, encouraging utilities to help customers reduce their electricity consumption, invest in solar, wind or nuclear power, establish carbon cap and trade systems or join existing ones.

The new proposals are not very ambitious, compared to EU emission targets and US annual per capita emissions of 14 tons. By 2030, total US C02 output will be only 6% lower than in 2005 as a result of the electricity package. That should be easy to achieve in view of the ongoing fall of emissions, due to the recession and rising energy efficiency.

But considering other measures under way, in particular in the automotive sector, total US emissions should be down by more than quarter until 2030 compared to 2005, considering the US objective of reducing them by 17% until 2020. That is a respectable score considering where the USA comes from!

The new rules will change expectations. When they enter into force in 2016 US industry and citizens should finally wake up to the reality that the government are serious with tackling the worst long-term challenge. This in turn should boost investments in alternative power generation and energy efficiency. The US public will finally start learning to do with less electricity as they have already with less fuel consumption of cars.

The risk of a backlash remains. Companies and states most affected might contest the legality of the new rulings, and Republicans might even question the legality of the Environmental Protection Agency. But mainstream thinking seems to be switching toward more climate protection and energy independence after realising the full impact of increasingly damaging climate catastrophes.

Unfortunately, the new proposals are unlikely to give a powerful boost to the 2015 negotiations for an effective international climate pact with binding obligations for all countries. Major Western countries like Japan, Canada or Australia may come under some pressure; but China, Russia, India, Indonesia or Brazil – the really big emitter countries – will hardly feel impressed as long as US citizens continue to emit 2-3 times more C02 per citizen.

China will only wake up to the realities of climate change when its damage for health and the economy will really hurt and when the masses will take to the streets and protest against intolerable environmental conditions. This moment will come. The government has recognised the need to act, however slowly.

Committed political leadership that sees the dangers ahead and has the guts to act on its own without waiting for 200 countries to join is more desperately needed than ever.

That is what Obama has shown and why Humanity should be grateful to him.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10/6/2014

Does it really mean EU Energy security?

Posted by on 26/05/14
Lately European Union pays more and more attention to the energy security and as the European authorities say they do their best to diversify the energy sources. All of this is done to get rid of the influence of Russia which is always trying to lay down conditions and to blackmail the European countries. Both small and big.
Understanding the situation it is obvious that Europe . In fact nothing was done in order to talk with Russia as an equal.
The European Commissioner Oettinger has already said a lot about consumptions cuts of Russian gas. But finally Gazprom finished its North stream project and there is no doubt it will construct the South stream. European Nabukko lost its attractiveness since the prospects of Azeri-Turkish TANAP became more real, but nobody can answer the question: What’s next? In fact the Azerbaijanian are not so great, Turkmenian can not be transported to Europe without Transcaspian pipeline. That’s why Russia builds expensive South stream, so the EU becomes dependent on Russian gas surrounded by Russian pipelines in North and South. The European Southern Corridor project failed.
But even without Southern corridor Europe has great potential to diversify energy supplies. There are more than 20 LNG terminals on the territory of the EU which can process gas volumes, comparable with the Russian import. The US support in this situation is , in fact some of the US companies have already got a license to export LNG non free-trade agreement countries. It is worthy to mention that Canada is seeking for of its own LNG. There are also Qatar, Australia and other exporters of LNG. In case the EU sets the proposed by Donald Tusk Energy Community aimed to reduce the energy dependency on Russia, its primary task must be the replacement of Russian gas by imported LNG.
Another aspect worthy of note is Russian desire to increase its gas storage capabilities on the EU territory. For the last ten years Gazprom tries to purchase a stake in all European underground gas storages. And it really succeeds in its plans. The company independently will implement its ambitious plans in Western Europe. Austrian underground gas storage Haidaсh (2.8 bcm capacity), German Katharina (0.7 bcm capacity), Serbian Banatskiy Dvor (0.8 bcm capacity), Dutch Bergermeer (4.7 bcm capacity) are working for the Russian gas giant. But Gazprom also has long-term contracts on access to underground gas storages of other European states. Gazprom is carrying out the feasibility studies of underground gas storage projects in Great Britain, Romania, Turkey, Slovakia, France. The Russian authorities set the clear tasks to Gazprom – increase the gas storage capabilities up to 5 bcm in 2015 and up to 5% of annual export in 2030. According to the official statement priority is given to its own capabilities, not rented.
Today Russia is blackmailing the EU using the Ukrainian gas crisis as a tool to get as many advantages as possible:

Consent of the EU to introduce the new scheme of underground gas storage utilization;
Permission of the EC to increase gas supplies via North Stream;
Control over the OPAL gas pipeline, which will free Russia’s hands at the European gas market;

Change of the EC position on South Stream project, that will result in energy dependency of Southern and Eastern European countries.
The European countries must be united in struggle against Russian energy expansion and not to give reasons for blackmailing. The imposing has led to Russia’s understanding of its vulnerability. It made an effort to compensate possible losses in the energy sphere and signed the big gas contract with China. The US State Secretary John Kerry said that this contract was not connected with events in Ukraine, but the European experts say the opposite. The energy sales make 60% of Russia’s budget income and lion’s share of this income – from the EU.
To resist Russia in the energy sphere – this is the real chance to make it more compliant. Main tasks of the newly-elected EP are:
reject expensive Russian gas pipeline projects that make gas more expensive;
utilize regulation of the 3rd energy package for all parties with no exceptions;
make real steps to diversify the energy supplies.

Legitimizing EU Democracy and Advocating for a Federal Europe

Posted by on 21/05/14

— This is the first of two parts of my exclusive interview with Greens/EFA Vice President and MEP Ulrike Lunacek. —

This year’s European parliamentary election will commence in less than 24 hours with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among the first nations out of 28 to vote first. Most of the member states will be voting at the weekend. This election is the 8th parliamentary election since the first polls in 1979 and the first election after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

Below is a lengthy exclusive interview with MEP Ulrike Lunacek, the Spitzenkandidatin for the Austrian Greens and the Vice President of the Greens/EFA group.

The whole interview goes in-depth into one of the Greens’ advocacies for Europe, such as on legitimizing EU democracy, further continental integration resulting to a federal EU, reforming Europe’s institutional structure, combating climate change and saving the planet, surviving economic crises and debunking Eurosceptics.


It’s a fact that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit; the lack of transparency, the massive bureaucracy and corruption within the institutions undermine the EU’s credibility as a true leader of the world.

So what measures would the party undertake in legitimizing democracy within the EU?

Would it be abolishing some of the institutions or establishing a European constitution or something else?

“The “massive bureaucracy” is not a fact but a common stereotype. The EU, a Union of more than 500 million people, has around 45.000 officials working in the different institutions. In comparison the Austrian federal state employs 133.000 people.

Notwithstanding the above, you are right stating that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit: The EP does not have full legislative rights and the Council is still executive at national level and legislative at EU level. I support a federal Europe – the United States of Europe, which have to have a different, more democratic structure but also different policies, aiming at social justice and ecological sustainability, among other things. Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.

As far as the institutions are concerned, the establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level is needed, under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.”

Conservatives often argue that having a strict control on immigration is what’s needed right now. They argue that having liberal immigration and asylum policies and keeping the door open have been proven to be an irresponsible approach and that it is contrary to the citizens’ interests. What’s your response to this?

Why is further EU expansion vital and what’s the true vision of the Greens regarding a genuinely integrated Europe?

“The asylum policy of the European Union as a whole is in need of reform. First and foremost the Dublin-II-Regulation has to be repealed and asylum seekers must be fairly distributed among all EU Member States. Furthermore a Europe-wide regulation should give asylum seekers the opportunity for self-preservation with legal work. The result would be a win-win-situation: potentials and capabilities would be used and asylum seekers would be self-sufficient.

Apart from the question of asylum I am strongly in favor of further EU expansion. In late 2013 the Commission featured EU enlargement reports, which show that despite the rampant enlargement fatigue we constantly achieve concrete progress especially as far as the countries of the Western Balkans are concerned. For me, the EU enlargement is not a one-way street, but stability in the Western Balkans is in the mutual interest of the European Union and the candidate countries. Without the involvement of the entire Western Balkans, the European peace project is not completed. At the same time, EU governments are in need of strong arguments towards their citizens regarding further enlargement. Any progress in the accession process depends on the fulfillment of the criteria by the candidate countries. In this context the decisive factors are of course the implementation of the rule of law, judicial reform and the fight against corruption.”

As a staunch advocate of further European integration, your party’s vision of a “United States of Europe” is admirable, but the question remains: how achievable is a federal Europe in 10-15 years and how can the EU make it doable?

And what would a federal EU look like and what would it accomplish compared to the EU we have now?

“The United States of Europe might be a remote vision, but you have to have a concrete goal to take the first step. It is not that important whether we achieve this goal within the next 10 or 15 years, but it is important that we go in this direction. The principles that underpin my vision of Europe are to oppose the current tendency of increasingly resorting to intergovernmentalism in European decision making which amounts to nothing more than bargaining between narrowly defined national interests. I strongly believe that the only real way forward is by making decisions based on the common interests of the European Union and its citizens. The steps that have to be taken in order to make this vision come true, are:

  • Establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.
  • Introduction of the full right of initiative for the European Parliament to enable it to propose legislation.
  • Introduction of European electoral lists for elections to a proportion of the seats in the European Parliament, with the leading candidates on the list running concurrently for election to the top positions within in the European Commission, thus campaigning for European voters’ support.
  • Election to the Commission through the European Parliament: The Commission should be elected directly by the European Parliament. The practice of governments nominating national politicians or granting them politically-motivated ‘promotions’ to the Commission must cease.
  • Shoring up of direct democracy through accessible European Citizens’ Initiatives, and introduction of Europe-wide referenda on European issues. European citizens should be able to determine their future in a united Europe themselves. However, this should not be achieved via national referenda where domestic party-politics and power games reign, but rather through Europe-wide ones: far-reaching steps towards integration should be determined via a double-majority mechanism, with proposals requiring a majority of both EU citizens and EU Member States to be in favour.
  • A Green New Deal and social rights that really deserve that name. I am convinced that the European Union must take a decisive step towards a federal structure, starting with a community method in social justice and in economic governance, with common fiscal policies and a larger budget that makes the desperately needed investment in education, in an ecological paradigm change towards an ecologically sustainable economy with renewables and energy efficiency possible.

Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.”

#ReclaimEurope and #VoteGreen this #EP2014! ;-)


Where’s the enemy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

From cold war to hot war we are getting a new dimension by cyber war and it’s still ongoing. US blames China for massive spying and attacking US-structures but can be assumed acting similarly. And as the old game of good guy and bad guy does not fit anymore, it also isn’t able to set borders or differentiate between domestic and abroad. Major crackdown of malicious software „Blackshades“ by FBI last week has shown the dimension. And there does not even fit the old rule of big or small business. The malware, used to hijack computers and webcams remotely has been available for $40. Everyone is spying out everyone. Consequently it is not only China and USA or criminals acting in this sector. Did you know that German companies are among the market leaders in the global market for surveillance technology? German Minister of Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, has now started action in order to prevent the export of those technologies at least in authoritarian states and regimes, suppressing their own people. Until now there has been no regulation.

Is nuclear fusion an alternative to renewable energy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

At the risk of destroying the basis of human civilisation Humanity must find ways and means for phasing out the use of fossil fuels before the end of the century. The EU aims at reaching that objective already for 2050.

Renewable energies – wind, sun, waves and tides – can do the job provided Humanity imposes substantial cuts on its energy consumption, which should be possible through a substantial increase of energy efficiency.

Renewable energies have benefited from rapid technological progress lowering production costs and making them almost competitive with fossil energies. But they continue to suffer from their inherent handicap of intermittence which can only be neutralised by big investments in energy storage.

The focus on energy efficiency and renewable energies has overshadowed the parallel effort to develop thermonuclear fusion for the generation of electricity which has been going on for more than 70 years

Copying the sun has made it possible to produce the hydrogen bomb. Why should it not alsobe possible to tame thermonuclear energy for the generation of electricity!

What appears simple in scientific terms poses huge engineering challenges. How to imitate the sun that contains the plasma by temperatures of 15 million degrees and very powerful gravitational pressures?

The basic answer lies in compressing deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes into helium through electromagnetism and much higher temperatures than in the sun,

For decades scientists have attempted to generate electricity this way.

In 1997 physicists at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy have succeeded to generate 16 MW, but with an a input of 24 MW.

It is only in February 2014 that US scientists have, for the first time, been able to obtain a slightly positive yield.

The most ambitious international scientific programme for peaceful nuclear fusion ever launched, the “International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor” (ITER) grouping USA, EU, Japan, Korea, India, China and Russia aims at generating fusion energy by 2028. It is extremely complex, due to diverging interests among the participants. In the fall of 2013 it was on the verge of breaking up when the US Senate refused to attribute additional financing after delays and cost- overruns, though the costs of €15 billion are only 10 times the cost of building one 500 MW off-shore wind park kin the North Sea.

Nobody is certain that by 2028 the gigantic machine will effectively generate more electricity than it consumes. But physicists will, in any case, be able to draw fertile lessons from their 15-year long cooperation.

And one day before the end of the century, they will most probably succeed.

When they do thermonuclear energy might become a crucial component of the future energy mix and contribute to the fight against climate change. The ultimate test will, however, not be the technical feasibility of a fusion reactor but the cost of generating thermonuclear electricity compared to much simpler and safer technologies.

Whatever the outcome of that research, thermonuclear fusion is unlikely to ever replace cost-effective technologies like wind, sun and waves.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 16/5/2014

Time to end free pollution permits to counter CO2 leakage

Posted by on 12/05/14

By Sam van den Plas, WWF Europe

This article was first published in PointCarbon’s Carbon Market Europe

On 5th May, the European Commission proposed an update of the EU ETS carbon leakage list for 2015-2019. The new list would offer free pollution permits to a staggering 175 of 245 sectors, and thereby cover over 95 percent of industrial emissions in the ETS. The extreme generosity on display is President Barroso’s payback for the support he was given by fellow EU Commissioners reluctant to accept the 2030 climate and energy framework proposed in January.

This Commission largess also shows the extent to which influential big polluters have convinced EU officials that without substantial carbon price exemptions their competitiveness will be hit. Despite the ease with which their attractively simple message on carbon leakage can be contradicted by economic theory and ex-post assessments (including by the Commission’s own consultants), all of those on the old list make it to the new one.

This has real consequences. The free pollution permits for those on the list represent a transfer of wealth from public budgets to private industry. In 2013, this handout amounted to about 840m allowances, worth nearly €4bn. Both the value involved and the list’s impact on emissions cuts mean the criteria for inclusion must be carefully drawn. They are not.

The parameters for assessing carbon leakage overestimate the risk of relocation abroad – resulting in unjustified free pollution permits. Firstly, the assessment’s calculations use an assumed price of 30€/ton CO2 – between 3 and 6 times above the Commission’s own reference price up to 2020.Secondly, the new carbon leakage list continues to cover sectors trading with any non-EU country, regardless of whether those countries have comparable carbon pricing policies. This means the carbon leakage list ‘protects’ EU players who are actually competing with some rivals who are on a level playing field. In the context of the UNFCCC negotiations, where the EU is expecting other countries to show more climate ambition before 2020, such generosity could backfire. Moreover, the deplorable wasting of public goods on this scale threatens the credibility of the ETS as an adequate policy instrument delivering broad societal benefits.

This is particularly worrying given the evidence of the current policy’s unintended consequences, which have lead to windfall profits, subsidised exports of energy-intensive products, and state-aid overcompensation. Free allocations and state-aid for industry also mean that EU taxpayers are paying relatively more for CO2 emission allowances. This adds up to the prospect that the EU ETS will remain in oversupply with an ineffective carbon price signal for at least another decade.

EU Member States and the European Parliament have adequate justification to refuse this new carbon leakage list. Indeed, how can a proper political judgment be made of this list without quantification of the forgone auctioning revenues at country level? The Commission must come up with an alternative to handing out blank checks to industry, and restore the‘polluter pays’ principle with an EU ETS that works for the climate.

Energy-intensive industries are an important part of our economies, and they are facing economically unfavourable conditions. They suffer from weak demand due to the poor economy, aggravated in the longer term by structural overcapacity, changing comparative advantages and competition from emerging markets. Even if all EU climate and energy policy was written exactly to industrial players’ liking, they would still face difficult decisions about asset rationalisation and industrial structure and practices. Their strategy to working to delay the impact of climate policy decisions is therefore a potentially self-defeating distraction.

The false idol of industrial competitiveness has not only troubled reform of the European carbon market; it also overshadows a broader policy debate over post-2020 climate and energy policies. As with all false idols, it is time this one is exposed. European society cannot afford distraction from efforts to maintain and grow a sustainable industrial base in Europe by focusing on the region’s comparative advantage. A long-term industrial policy targeted at the development of energy saving and renewable products and technologies should form the basis of a major industrial policy initiative. The EU ETS, through smart use of auctioning revenues, offers an excellent opportunity to mainstream climate policy into industrial policy to build a cleaner, more innovative and competitive future.

Das Fracking in Deutschland. Vorbild für Europa?

Posted by on 12/05/14

Fracking – nein, danke! Öffentlichkeitswirksam haben sich die Umweltminister der Länder heute gegen die umstrittene Methode zur Gasförderung ausgesprochen. Allerdings zu sagen haben die Minister bei dem Thema wenig. Denn Fracking fällt unter das Bergrecht und damit in die Zuständigkeit der Wirtschaftsminister. Und derzeit bereiten die Wirtschaftsminister einiger Länder – allen voran Niedersachsen und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – durch die Hintertür einen Einstieg in das Fracking in Deutschland vor.

Hintergrund sind ganz handfeste wirtschaftliche Gründe. Ganze 600 Millionen Euro bekommt zum Beispiel Niedersachsen Jahr für Jahr von der Erdgas-Industrie für den geförderten Rohstoff. Zum Vergleich: Das ist dreimal so viel wie der Anteil des Landes an VW wert ist. Pech ist nur, dass die Erdgasförderung in Deutschland seit Jahren sinkt und damit Industriestätten gefährdet sind. Das Fracking soll es jetzt herausreißen.

Dabei unterscheidet die Branche aber zwischen “gutem” und “schlechtem” Fracking. Das “gute” Fracking ist schon seit 1961 mehrfach in Niedersachsen durchgeführt worden und soll jetzt nach jahrelangem Moratorium in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern zum Einsatz kommen. Dabei geht es darum, dass Gas aus tiefen Sandsteinschichten herauszuspülen. Dieses Verfahren ist nicht so umweltschädlich wie das sogenannte “schlechte” Fracking in tiefem Schiefergestein, weil nicht so viele umweltschädliche Stoffe eingesetzt werden. Deshalb erwarten Niedersachsen und auch Mecklenburg-Vorpommern bei ihrem Vorstoß auch längst nicht den Gegenwind wie beim Schiefer-Fracking, gegen das sich die Umweltminister heute ausgesprochen haben.

Die Erdgas Lobbyisten bedienen sich auch der Ukraine-Krise, um ihre Anträge auf Fracking durchzusetzen. Doch das ist ein Argument, das nicht zieht. Die in Norddeutschland zu fördernden Gasmengen sind so gering, dass sie ganz sicher keine Alternative zum Import russischen Gases darstellen. In Deutschland wird Fracking deshalb immer eine Randerscheinung bleiben. In den USA und Kanada hingegen hat es in den vergangenen fünf Jahren einen solchen Boom gegeben, dass das prognostizierte weltweite Aus für Öl und Gas noch 20 bis 30 Jahre nach hinten verlagert wurde.

Trotzdem ist das Manöver durchsichtig: Industrie und Politik wollen den Fuß in der Tür behalten, um die Erdgasförderung in Deutschland zu legitimieren. Und die Umweltminister haben heute zwar Reformen beschlossen; jetzt muss sich allerdings zeigen, ob die Umweltinteressen die Wirtschaftsinteressen schlagen können. Für die sehr umtriebigen Bürgerinitiativen in Norddeutschland bedeutet das: Die Fracking-Gefahr ist noch längst nicht gebannt, auch wenn es völlig unrealistisch ist, dass in den kommenden Jahren in Norddeutschland mit dem Schiefer-Fracking begonnen wird. “Fracking – nein, danke” – das heutige Motto der Umweltminister wird Norddeutschland auch noch die kommenden Jahre bewegen.

Nuclear phase out becoming expensive …

Posted by on 12/05/14

… for German Government and by that certainly for German tax payers. As accidentally announced during the weekend, the three major German power suppliers (RWE, E.on, EnBW) want to establish a foundation which should cover phasing out from nuclear. This would cut aside the very expensive dismantling, decommissioning and interim storage of nuclear waste from business of the companies. The deal: Federal Government should engage in that foundation and cover significant share of costs and burdens and the German energy suppliers would withdraw a part of the over two dozens of lawsuits which had been raised in recent years against the public sector. First reactions from politicians were very rough and refusing – but maybe it’s not the end of an idea but the begin of a fruitful discussion.

Die europäische Energiefalle

Posted by on 07/05/14

Energie darf nicht zur Waffe werden, sagte Energieminister Gabriel in Rom… Doch was wie eine deutliche und entschlossene Ansage klingen sollte, ist nicht mehr als das sprichwörtliche Pfeifen im Wald. Denn Energie, die Verfügungsgewalt über Öl, Gas und Pipelines ist schon längst eine der wichtigsten Waffen in großen und kleinen Konflikten…

Und nicht nur das: Energie, der Streit um Zugang zu diesem unverzichtbaren Lebenselixier unserer hypermobilen Welt, ist immer häufiger selbst Auslöser für Krisen und Kriege. Der aktuelle Konflikt um die Ukraine ist in beiderlei Hinsicht ein Beleg dafür. Die Ukraine war und ist als wichtigstes Gas-Transitland für den Kreml besonders wichtig. Und Putin bezieht nicht nur im aktuellen Konflikt einen Großteil seines Selbstbewusstseins aus der Tatsache, dass er mit der Gaswaffe sowohl die Ukraine als auch große Teile Westeuropas unter Druck setzen kann.

Die Hilflosigkeit des Westens resultiert allerdings nicht allein aus der Skrupellosigkeit des russischen Präsidenten. Europa ist zum großen Teil selbst schuld an der Zwickmühle, in der es jetzt steckt. Denn viel zu lange hat man die Warnungen vor dem Versiegen der Öl- und Gasquellen und der wachsenden Abhängigkeit der EU von Energie-Importen in den Wind geschlagen…

Bislang fanden die Energiekriege weit weg von Europa statt, doch mit der Ukraine-Krise bekommen wir diese fatale Entwicklung direkt vor unserer Haustür zu spüren. Es gibt keinen kurzfristigen, ja nicht einmal einen mittelfristigen Ausweg aus dieser Energiefalle… Die einzig wirksamen Rezepte wirken nur langfristig: Umstieg auf Erneuerbare, mehr Energie-Effizienz, Flüssiggas und neue Pipelines – und für manche auch Atomkraft. Denen sei allerdings ein Blick in die Ukraine empfohlen: Dort steht mahnend nicht nur die Ruine von Tschernobyl, sondern weitere fünfzehn Atomkraftwerke, deren Sicherheit im aktuellen Konflikt bestimmt nicht größer geworden ist.

Europe can be role model at UN’s Climate Change Conference 2015

Posted by on 06/05/14
By Thomas Becker Ukraine and the 2030 energy targets put renewables front and centre in terms of policy challenges. Do we lock ourselves in to fossil fuels for the next 50 years or do we allow Europeans to determine their own future, safe in the knowledge that the wind energy tap cannot be turned off?

Why is European energy security not at top of priorities list?

Posted by on 06/05/14

Energy security has re-appeared on the agenda of European energy policy. More than half of European energy needs are covered through imports, with most of them coming from a few countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria.

Under the impact of the Ukraine crisis, the EU has launched efforts to diversify its gas imports to other supply countries like Norway, Algeria, Qatar and USA and strengthening intra-EU connections. But this should be only one chapter of a more comprehensive policy effort.

Europe would be well advised to reduce its overall import dependency. It is likely to become a balance of payments burden, as global energy resources will become scarcer and more expensive. This trend has been accelerating during the past few decades. No commodity has seen a steeper price rise than oil, which today is about 40 times more expensive than 50 years ago, something we tend to overlook in view of the short-term market fluctuations.

The long-term recipe for energy security is simple: reduce the consumption of energy, in particular of fossil fuels. That corresponds to Europe’s basic strategy the rationale of which deserves an overhaul. Instead of trying to minimise climate change, which remains the biggest global challenge, we should focus more on European interests: guarantee our long-term energy supply, which should make it easier for citizens to accept a higher price.

More domestic fossil energy production like shale gas would be helpful for lowering import dependency. It should also help replacing lignite and coal that need to be phased because of their high CO2 content.

But if Europa wants to be serious with cutting its energy imports to, say, a quarter of its needs until the middle of the century it has no choice but to sharply reduce its energy demand and, in parallel, boost wind, solar and ocean energies and make them less dependent on weather vagaries thanks to a comprehensive EU-wide grid.

By doing so it will greatly enhance its energy security while making a valid input against climate change. Both of these objectives are worth an increase of energy prices, which is likely to happen anyhow. Politicians should therefore stop complaining of “high energy prices” and put them in the wider context of a reliable energy supply and the preservation of the planet.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 5/5/2014

Can Scotland help inspire Europe on renewable energy?

Posted by on 04/05/14
By Jason Anderson for WWF In 2013 Scotland met almost 47% of its electricity needs from renewables and there is plenty more to come. If anyone doubted we can respond to the challenge the IPCC set out, the example offered by Scotland and many other countries the world over show the EU can and must step up for a safer future for people everywhere.

Will humanity take effective action against climate change?

Posted by on 14/04/14

In the fall of 2015 the international community is set to adopt a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change. Paris having been chosen as the meeting place the French government is showing more interest in climate issues and trying to mobilise the EU on a rapid agreement of its 2030 climate objectives.

The UN preparatory machinery keeps running full steam to obtain a successful outcome.

This goes above all for the scientific aspects.

In the last seven years, Humanity has accumulated a huge amount of scientific data on the climate change that has taken place during the 20th century and is likely to occur during the 21st century. Never have human beings known so much about the climate. It is therefore no longer possible for anyone to deny climate change taking place and being mostly man-made.

There is also a consensus on its main causes: C02 and methane emissions from burning fossil energies for heating, cooling, transport, industrial processes and massive deforestation are the principal villains.

If Humanity were able to contain these major causal factors within the next five decades it would still have a chance of mitigating climate change.

Theoretically this is possible.

Humanity can do without burning as much fossil energy as it does. This goes in particular for the wealthy West and China.

Wind, solar, biomass and waves can substitute fossil energy, provided storage facilities and long-distance grid interconnections are in place.

As long as they are still more expensive than coal and gas temporary subsidy regimes should offer incentives.

But why should the 2015 “big bang” in Paris be any different from the 20 preceding “Conferences of the Parties” and lay out a convincing path for Humanity to throw off the burden of climate change that will weigh so heavily on the shoulders of the coming generations?

The 195 countries that will attend the COP 21 remain deeply divided on the nature of the commitments and the burden sharing they will have to accept for a successful outcome. So far they are likely to agree only on the necessity to contain global warming within the critical margin of two centigrade; but that would be nothing new and rather meaningless without firm and verifiable commitments as to the actions to be taken.

But the international community is less than ever concerned about climate change. According to the last assessments the impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be much lower than projected only six years ago by the Stern Report. And how many politicians care already about the impacts on biodiversity, natural catastrophes or even a steep increase in the numbers of “climate refugees”!

It is therefore not surprising to see the emphasis shifting from mitigation to adaptation. Humanity seems to prefer the costs for adaptation rather than invest in mitigation efforts, even if that will be risky because of the irreversible effects of climate change.

It is fully in line with this trend that:

  • big polluter countries like Japan, Australia, Canada or Russia are anything but keen combating climate change;
  • all major fossil energy producing countries refuse phasing out their massive oil and gas subsidies;
  • EU climate policy suffers from the global indifference. The EU rightly underlines that its efforts matter less and less as its share of global emissions is approaching 10 per cent. Contrary to the wishes of the UN Secretary General, it is not likely to play the role of a powerful locomotive in Paris, however regrettable this may be.

China and USA, the two emission giants, accounting for about half of global emissions, might be a glimpse of light in the gloomy picture.

But China will take another 20 years or so before its emissions might start falling; and the US objective of reducing its emissions by 17 per cent until 2017 compared to 2005 will not be a glorious achievement, considering its extremely high per capita emissions of 14 tons and the EU scheduled reductions and by at least 40 per cent until 2030 over 1990.

In conclusion, it looks presently unlikely that the COP 21 in Paris will turn out to be a thrilling success.

It would be a great progress if:

  • the 20 major emitter countries responsible for about 75 per cent of global emissions committed themselves to formulate 20-year strategies within a UN framework and to submit annual performance reports;
  • all rich countries, including the oil/gas exporters, offered the World Bank the financial means – say $ 100 billion per year – to help finance a big programmes for wind, hydro and solar energy;
  • the tropical forest countries were to curb illegal wood cutting and receive appropriate compensation for these efforts.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 11/4/2014

Rem Korteweg: ‘Europe is a resource-poor continent’

Posted by on 10/04/14
By Joop Hazenberg In the last interview for my book project, I gave the floor to Rem Korteweg, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform (CER) in London. Korteweg almost defends the British perspective on Europe: A compromise on the direction, course and structure of the EU is necessary.