Q: Why is Europe so vulnerable to Russia and what can we learn from it?
A: Europe has extreme dependence on Russian natural gas because Europe has foolishly restricted fossil fuel and nuclear energy production on the false promise that unreliable solar and wind could replace it.
As Russia threatens to invade Ukraine, its extreme control over Europe is being revealed to the world.
40% of Europe’s natural gas—which it desperately needs for heating and electricity—comes from Russia.
And Russia has already kept Europe’s natural gas storage at low levels.
Europe’s vulnerability to Russia was completely preventable. Europe and its allies have all the natural gas, coal, and uranium they need to produce low-cost, reliable heat and electricity for generations to come.
But anti-fossil fuel, anti-nuclear policies have neutered Europe.
For the last 2 decades Europe has destroyed its ability to produce and import energy from fossil fuels and nuclear—on the promise that unreliable solar and wind could replace them. But after trillions in subsidies, it’s clear that they have failed.
One major cause of Europe’s current energy impotence is its numerous bans on the greatest natural gas producing technology ever invented: fracking. Fracking has been banned by France, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and the UK.
All the European nations that banned fracking are still 100% dependent on natural gas to survive. In fact, they are even more dependent than they used to be because their use of intermittent solar and wind requires the unique flexible backup that natural gas can provide.
Another major cause of Europe’s current energy impotence is its opposition to LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) import terminals—combined with the US’s opposition to export terminals. If not for these, Europe could get a lot of its gas from America—not Russia.
Still another major cause of Europe’s current energy impotence is its dual policy of prematurely shutting down coal plants and nuclear plants—leading to extreme reliance on natural gas from Russia. E.g., anti-coal Germany just shut down 3 of its last 6 nuclear reactors.
The #1 lesson of Europe’s natural gas dependence is this: European governments have wildly overestimated the ability of solar and wind to provide the energy they need and wildly underestimated the need for fossil fuels and nuclear to provide the energy they need.
If Europe’s level of dependence on Russia for natural gas scares you, know this: America is even more dependent on China for many of the key components of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries than Europe is on Russia for natural gas.
1 Reuters – Gas prices surge in Europe over tight Russian supplies; The Wall Street Journal – Germany’s Reliance on Russian Gas Limits Europe’s Options in Ukraine Crisis
2 Alex Epstein – Talking Points on skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices
3 Alex Epstein – Talking Points on how Europe’s fracking bans have contributed to its natural gas crisis
4 Alex Epstein – Talking Points on the “Other countries have 80% clean electricity” argument
5 The Times (Ireland) – Liquefied natural gas terminals to be banned in law; Politico – French government blocks U.S. LNG deal as too dirty; Bloomberg – German Gas Terminal Faces Headwinds as Major Investor Steps Back; The Maritime Executive – Greenpeace Blocks Arrival of Gas Carrier at Spanish Gas Terminal
6 Reuters – Germany shuts three of its last six nuclear plants; Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action – Final decision to launch the coal-phase out – a project for a generation