More than a month after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the United States and the European Union (EU) announced on Friday 25 March the creation of a task force which will aim to reduce the dependence of Europe towards Russian fossil fuels.
The United States will strive to supply Europe with 15 billion cubic meters (m3) additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2022, as part of this initiative unveiled by US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to a statement. Currently, the United States supplies Europe (EU and United Kingdom) with 66.5 million m3 of LNG per day.
The EU is being pressed by kyiv and some member states, including the Baltic countries and Poland, to adopt drastic sanctions to stop imports of Russian hydrocarbons, in order to deprive Moscow of its main economic resource. Washington has already imposed an embargo on gas and oil on March 8.
But many European states remain opposed to it, because of the ultra-dependence of Europeans on Russian gas deliveries. The latter is one of the main issues in this conflict. How can we do without around 40% of the gas consumed and 45% of the gas imported in 2021 at EU level? These percentages vary considerably between the Twenty-Seven, France being well below (17% of its gas imports in 2020 are Russian), and Germany well above (more than 50%).
Germany seeks to diversify its supplies
In the future, the EU could thus replace 30 billion m3 by those of other suppliers: through gas pipelines (10 billion m3) – for example from Norway or Azerbaijan, as EU production is in decline – as well as by sea (20 billion m3), the United States and Qatar having made LNG trade a specialty.
“We were able to make this decision [d’un embargo]while others could not, because we are a net exporter of energy, with a strong sector [dans les hydrocarbures] », Joe Biden told the press on Friday. Washington “welcomes the EU’s ambitious commitment to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, and we have agreed on a common action plan to contribute to this objective, while accelerating our progress” towards a decarbonisation of the economy, he added.
At the same time, Germany announced that it would strongly and rapidly reduce its own dependence on Russian energies. “By the middle of the year , Russian oil imports to Germany are expected to have halved; at the end of the year, we are aiming for quasi-independence”the German economy ministry said in a statement, adding that, “by autumn we can become globally independent of Russian coal”.
Before the invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, Germany imported a third of its oil and around 45% of its coal from Russia, according to German government statistics. From now on, German companies that buy hydrocarbons “let contracts with Russian suppliers expire, do not renew them and turn to other suppliers”, according to the government. For gas, on which the country depended more than 55% on Russia before the war, the process should be longer. Germany could be “largely independent (…) by mid-2024”he specified.