Friday, 30 January 2009

Would accepting Nord Stream be a blow to European interests?

Angela Merkel is pushing for the EU to back the Russo-German Nord Stream pipeline, which should supply gas to Germany, bypassing Eastern transit countries.

But with energy security an increasing concern - with the Czech Presidency even describing the South Stream project (a Russian pipeline to go through the Balkans) as a "threat" to the EU's plans for an alternative non-Russian controlled pipeline through Turkey ("Nabucco"). These new pipelines will reduce the political insecurity of gas supply which has dogged European countries over the last few years, but they will mean that EU countries will remain dependent to a large degree on Russia for its gas.

It would be easy to overstate the threat involved here. Russia is not forcing anyone to buy its gas, and these pipelines will not prevent the EU from developing green energy sources and finding other suppliers. However, the political courage to take any of these energy security measures it largely (if not solely) one of necessity. At a time when Obama is making the right noises about investing in green technology and promoting a green economy (of course, it's too early to tell how this will work out), the EU has weakened its committment in December. Could Al Gore be right when he said that only the US can lead on climate change?

The weaknesses of our politicians in making tough decisions in this area is a lot harder to overstate.

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