Putin Ready To Turn Off Europe’s Gas Supply

GWPF | 26 Feb 2015

Eastern Europe Key Battleground In US-Russia Shale War

Russia threatened yesterday to disrupt gas supplies to Europe within days, opening a new front in the showdown over Ukraine. President Putin demanded immediate advance payments from Kiev to keep the gas taps on in the depths of winter. Cutting off gas would be likely to hit transit flows to Europe. His ultimatum came on the day that the EU announced ambitious plans for an “energy union” to end Russia’s energy stranglehold over the continent. –David Charter, The Times, 26 February 2015

In a setback to Europe’s nascent shale-gas industry, Chevron Corp. said Friday it is relinquishing its interests in shale-gas concessions in Romania, the U.S. oil giant’s last shale-gas project in Europe. It follows Chevron’s announcement last month that it was quitting shale-exploration activities in Poland. Last year Chevron terminated shale-gas agreements in Lithuania and Ukraine. Chevron’s pullback on European shale development will be disappointing to some European governments that have been eager to replicate the U.S. shale-gas boom, hoping to reduce reliance on imported gas supplies, in particular from Russia. –Selina Williams, The Wall Street Journal, 21 February 2015

1) Putin Ready To Turn Off Europe’s Gas Supply – The Times, 26 February 2015

2) Putin’s Victory Chevron Gives Up All European Shale-Gas Interests – The Wall Street Journal, 21 February 2015

3) Eastern Europe Key Battleground In US-Russia Shale War – Voice of America, 23 February 2015

4) Cuadrilla Seismic Monitor Plan Refused – BBC News, 25 February 2015

5) Keith Johnson: Europe’s Shale Fiasco – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 15 February 2015

6) “Watering Down” EU Climate Targets Risks Undermining UN Climate Deal, Ed Davey & Green Campaigners Warn – Responding to Climate Change, 26 February 2015

7) IPCC Needs To Transform To Scientific Organisation – Think Tank – Sputnik International, 26 February 2015

As the U.S. wages a high-profile campaign against Russia over Ukraine, it is also battling Kremlin-dominance on another front – energy in Eastern Europe. The U.S. moves come amid renewed charges that Russia – through its state-controlled energy company, Gazprom – has successfully blocked shale gas exploration in Bulgaria through a shadowy but well-funded campaign waged to protect its regional energy dominance. –Mark Snowiss, Voice of America, 23 February 2015

Lancashire county councillors have rejected plans for fracking company Cuadrilla to carry out seismic and pressure monitoring at a county site. A Cuadrilla spokesman said the company was “perplexed and disappointed” by the decision. —BBC News, 25 February 2015

A year ago, Russia’s lunge into Ukraine focused European minds on the dangers of depending on Moscow for their energy supplies, pushing countries across the continent to scramble onto the shale-gas bandwagon in a quest to copy U.S. success and move toward having the ability to produce all the energy they need on their own. Now, after a series of disappointments, Europe’s shale dreams seem to have all but evaporated. This will have implications for Europe’s economic competitiveness and energy security at a time when a sluggish economy and a snarling Russia worry European leaders in equal measure. –Keith Johnson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 15 February 2015

Certainly the policymakers in Brussels and the Scottish government are just completely wedded to this vision of a renewable-energy future where we can phase out fossil fuels. The most fervent of them don’t want to see shale gas developed because that might deflect focus from renewables. — Howard Rogers, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 15 February 2015

The European Commission’s latest set of proposals for a UN climate deal could “severely undermine” efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, UK climate and energy chief Ed Davey has warned. A perception the EU is trying to wriggle out of its climate commitments could impact alliances with other countries in the run-up to Paris, where a UN deal is set to be agreed in December, he added. –Ed King, Responding to Climate Change, 26 February 2015

One of the world’s most influential organizations in the sphere of climate change — the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — should be drastically reformed, the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) urged Wednesday following the resignation of the IPCC chairman amid sexual harassment allegations. “The IPCC is seen as a green lobby-group rather than a scientific authority. And that is a problem because governments themselves need to trust this organization,” GPWF director Benny Peiser told Sputnik news agency Wednesday. –Daria Chernyshova, Sputnik International, 26 February 2015

1) Putin Ready To Turn Off Europe’s Gas Supply
The Times, 26 February 2015

David Charter

Russia threatened yesterday to disrupt gas supplies to Europe within days, opening a new front in the showdown over Ukraine.

President Putin demanded immediate advance payments from Kiev to keep the gas taps on in the depths of winter. Cutting off gas would be likely to hit transit flows to Europe.


His ultimatum came on the day that the EU announced ambitious plans for an “energy union” to end Russia’s energy stranglehold over the continent.

Officials admitted, however, that it would take many years and an investment of €1 trillion in infrastructure to achieve energy security after delays caused by previous failed attempts at better EU co-operation.

With the United States yesterday accusing “Russia and the forces it is supporting” of continuing to flout the ceasefire agreed two weeks ago, Mr Putin increased his rhetoric against the government in Ukraine.

Criticising Kiev for cutting off gas to eastern regions under the control of pro-Russian separatists, Mr Putin said: “Imagine these people will be left without gas in winter. Not only that there is famine . . . It smells of genocide.”

Ukraine had paid only enough cash “for three or four days’ gas supplies”, he said. “Unless there is a prepayment, Gazprom [the Kremlin’s energy giant] . . . will terminate the supply. Of course this may create a threat to transit to Europe, to our European partners.”

Moscow is facing the likelihood of extra sanctions from the West. David Cameron stepped up Britain’s involvement by announcing on Tuesday that 75 soldiers would be sent to Ukraine on a training mission. He warned that failure to stand up to Mr Putin would be “deeply damaging for all of us”.

Russia’s natural resources are a powerful weapon in its arsenal. Five of the eastern EU nations rely entirely on the country for their gas and several more are vulnerable to disruption in Ukraine. Europe received about 147 billion cubic metres of Russian gas last year, about a third of its total, with 40 per cent transported via Ukraine.

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2) Putin’s Victory As Chevron Gives Up All European Shale-Gas Interests
The Wall Street Journal, 21 February 2015

Selina Williams

In a setback to Europe’s nascent shale-gas industry,Chevron Corp. said Friday it is relinquishing its interests in shale-gas concessions in Romania, the U.S. oil giant’s last shale-gas project in Europe.

It follows Chevron’s announcement last month that it was quitting shale-exploration activities in Poland. Last year Chevron terminated shale-gas agreements in Lithuania and Ukraine.

“That leaves Romania, where we are in the process of relinquishing our concession interests,” a Chevron spokesman said.

The spokesman didn’t say why Chevron was giving up the Romanian concessions.
As in many cases with energy projects, Chevron negotiated a contract with the government for the concessions, which the company is now relinquishing.

Chevron’s pullback on European shale development will be disappointing to some European governments that have been eager to replicate the U.S. shale-gas boom, hoping to reduce reliance on imported gas supplies, in particular from Russia.

But progress has been slow. Disappointing exploration results in Poland and local opposition to hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to release the gas from the rock, have stymied efforts elsewhere.

Countries with promising geology, such as France and Germany, have imposed a moratorium on fracking.

In the U.K., which lifted a moratorium on fracking at the end of 2012, companies have to apply for as many as seven permits and go through a lengthy planning application process before they can drill and frack. So far in Britain, only a handful of wells have been drilled and just one fracked in 2011.

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3) Eastern Europe Key Battleground In US-Russia Shale War
Voice of America, 23 February 2015

Mark Snowiss

As the U.S. wages a high-profile campaign against Russia over Ukraine, it is also battling Kremlin-dominance on another front – energy in Eastern Europe.

NATO member Bulgaria, which relies on Russia for 85 percent of its natural gas and all its nuclear fuel, is on the frontline of this confrontation.

“For Russia, energy has always been a means for the Kremlin to extend its geo-political priorities and the financial interests of certain people involved,” said former Bulgarian energy minister Traicho Traikov.

“Economic benefits come last. Enough people in Bulgaria owe favors to Russia so [this policy] is successful,” he said.

The U.S. recently pledged to send an energy envoy to Sofia and is promoting an American company to build a nuclear power plant there. Washington is also looking to help fund new gas pipelines and terminals in the region.

“In the area of energy security, we’re not just talking the talk, now we’re walking the walk,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of European Affairs Victoria Nuland said in January of U.S. intentions.

Her boss, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visited Bulgaria for economic discussions earlier this year.

“A lot of time” was spent discussing energy security, Kerry said, adding that Bulgaria needs to find new sources.

The U.S. moves come amid renewed charges that Russia – through its state-controlled energy company, Gazprom – has successfully blocked shale gas exploration in Bulgaria through a shadowy but well-funded campaign waged to protect its regional energy dominance.

“Along with the massive drop in energy prices, hydraulic fracturing constitutes the greatest threat to Russian financial and political influence in Europe and to future Russian tax receipts,” said Keith Smith, a former U.S. ambassador to Lithuania with additional posts throughout Europe.

He and other former U.S. and European officials and energy experts who spoke with VOA outlined an effort by which Russian officials, working with foreign consultancies in Brussels, have financially supported anti-fracking activities in several European countries.

Bulgaria’s shale U-turn
Despite paying some of the highest prices in the world for energy, Bulgaria in 2012 issued an open-ended ban on hydraulic fracturing, cancelling a license for unconventional gas exploration granted less than six months earlier to the U.S. energy giant Chevron.

When anti-fracking protests quickly spread to other East European countries with little prior interest in ecological issues, a number of high-ranking officials and energy experts pointed to Russia.

Moscow’s position as the principal supplier of expensive European natural gas imports means huge profits for the Kremlin, which raises about 60 percent of its federal revenue from energy exports.

Along with Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland and the Baltics also receive nearly all their gas from Russia; Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, depends on it for almost 40 percent of its supply.

“Their influence is continuing. Russia will do anything to disrupt production, especially in Central and Eastern Europe,” Smith said.

Russia and Gazprom have denied the accusations, as have Bulgarian environmental groups.

“This is very bad propaganda. Nothing’s been proven, no one’s been named as a paid agent of the Russians,” said Borislav Sandov, co-founder of the Bulgarian Green Party and spokesman for Fracking Free Bulgaria, a leading environmental group.

Much of Europe’s anti-fracking movement, as in the United States, stems from real environmental concerns.

Activists point to evidence linking fracking to groundwater contamination as having galvanized popular opinion and governments against the controversial drilling technique by which water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to retrieve oil or natural gas.

But when it comes to Eastern Europe, the allegations against Russia and its ties to environmentalists are public and widespread.

“[The Russian campaign] is no secret. The U.S. knows through diplomatic channels, but previously didn’t have the resources or urgency to act. Ukraine changed the game. The West doesn’t want to be friends with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin anymore,” Traikov said.

Before stepping down last year, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen openly accused Moscow of aiding Europe’s anti-fracking movement.

“Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” Rasmussen said.

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4) Cuadrilla Seismic Monitor Plan Refused
BBC News, 25 February 2015

Lancashire county councillors have rejected plans for fracking company Cuadrilla to carry out seismic and pressure monitoring at a county site.

Planning officers, the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency recommended approval.

But the development control committee turned down the application which had received more than 300 objections.

Later this year the county council will decide whether to give the company permission to frack at two sites.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said the company was “perplexed and disappointed” by the decision.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The development control committee voted for the application be refused on the grounds that it considered it contrary to policies in the development plan.”

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5) Keith Johnson: Europe’s Shale Fiasco
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 15 February 2015

Tricky geology, clumsy governments and environmental protesters are smothering Europe’s shale revolution
A year ago, Russia’s lunge into Ukraine focused European minds on the dangers of depending on Moscow for their energy supplies, pushing countries across the continent to scramble onto the shale-gas bandwagon in a quest to copy U.S. success and move toward having the ability to produce all the energy they need on their own.

Now, after a series of disappointments, Europe’s shale dreams seem to have all but evaporated. And that makes it increasingly unlikely that Europe will reap the kind of gas-fired benefits that have rejuvenated sectors of the U.S. economy and greatly reduced American reliance on foreign energy. This will have implications for Europe’s economic competitiveness and energy security at a time when a sluggish economy and a snarling Russia worry European leaders in equal measure.

The latest blow to Europe’s hopes of pulling off its own energy revolution came last month, when U.S. oil giant Chevron pulled up stakes in Poland, the country where geology and politics had appeared most promising for a replay of the U.S. experience. Other international energy firms, such as Total, jumped ship last year. Energy companies there have balked at high drilling costs and disappointing results. They’ve also been frustrated by ever-shifting tax and regulatory regimes in Warsaw.

Shale has also hit other headwinds of late, with Bulgaria’s government doubling-down on a shale exploration ban: The new prime minister said greenlighting shale there would be “political suicide.” Romania, another potentially big shale play, is now treading water because of vocal public opposition. British legislators proposed a moratorium on fracking because of environmental concerns and Scotland banned the practice. Last year, foreign firms like Chevron also bailed out of other promising plays, including Ukraine and Lithuania, to focus limited investment dollars on countries with more definite upside.

“It’s a safe bet that shale is dead, and it’s always been dead in a way,” said Grzegorz Pytel, a shale-gas expert at the Sobieski Institute, a Polish think tank. A combination of corporate stumbles, overbearing regulators, tricky geology and oftentimes hostile public opinion have conspired to derail Europe’s fracking revolution, he said.

It’s not just Europe. Countries such as China and Argentina also have vast shale-gas reserves yet have struggled to muster the elusive combination of good governance, nimble energy firms and privately-owned mineral rights that has unleashed the shale boom in the United States.

New drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing have given the United States the ability in recent years to tap huge amounts of oil and gas that were trapped in shale formations. That shale gale has set the United States on the path to becoming an energy exporter, has led to lower energy prices and has been a shot in the arm for industries that need cheap fuel and feedstock.

On paper, Europe could do the same. Promising shale deposits underlie the continent, from the north of England through France and central Europe to eastern countries such as Poland and Ukraine. Together, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration, those countries have about 600 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale-gas reserves — almost as much as the United States and enough to supply Europe’s consumption for more than 30 years.

Those paper riches entranced some European leaders, from British Prime Minister David Cameron to former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who’ve sought to promote fracking. Others, especially in France and Germany, but also in central and eastern Europe, either banned the practice or slow-footed its development, largely due to environmental concerns and vocal public opposition.

Governments from London to  Warsaw had played up the potential to replicate at least in part the U.S. experience, selling heady visions of energy independence and faster-growing economies. Mr. Cameron last year touted the “massive opportunity” shale offered Britain. Mr. Tusk played up the role that Polish reserves could play in ending Russian energy blackmail. But those promises vastly outpaced developments on the ground, where companies were unable to come close to replicating the rapid-fire growth of shale gas extraction that transformed Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

“Because of these big hopes, there are big disappointments right now,” said Tomasz Daborowski, a shale expert at Polish think tank Centre for Eastern Studies.

To be sure, there are plenty of places cheering shale’s headwinds. Key lawmakers in Britain are worried about the environmental impacts of fracking in a small, densely populated country that is trying to meet ambitious climate-change targets. Scotland lives from offshore oil and gas so had no problem banning fracking. France and Germany have long been opposed. Bulgaria flirted with fracking, before suddenly reversing course — despite its overwhelming reliance on Russia.

Russia itself, which supplies about one-third of Europe’s natural gas, has spent years demonizing fracking in a bid to remove potential competitors. Last year, former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Russia helped organize pan-European resistance to shale gas exploration. Russian media have gleefully chronicled Europe’s recent fracking frustrations.

In some ways, developing Europe’s shale resources is arguably less vital than it seemed just a few years ago. That’s because countries across the continent have started diversifying their energy options, even without tapping their own resources. The U.S. boom means there is plenty of natural gas that can be imported on tankers; Poland and Lithuania, for example, have recently used the construction of gas-import terminals to give themselves an alternative to Russian gas. Better pipeline connections between European countries have also made it easier to move gas supplies around, easing energy concerns for vulnerable countries, especially those in the east.

But another reason fracking is struggling to take off is that — despite Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and continued strong-arm tactics with its energy exports — many European countries are still less concerned about energy security than climate change.

Brussels hopes to build an “energy union” that can achieve the seemingly contradictory goals of making energy supplies greener, cheaper and more secure. Germany is ramping up its massive bet on clean energy. France sits atop plentiful reserves but won’t even consider fracking. Even in Britain, lawmakers from across the political spectrum warned last month that shale gas is still a fossil fuel and that decades of reliance on yesterday’s energy would impair Britain’s ability to dramatically slash greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Certainly the policymakers in Brussels and the Scottish government are just completely wedded to this vision of a renewable-energy future where we can phase out fossil fuels,” said Howard Rogers, a gas expert at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “The most fervent of them don’t want to see shale gas developed because that might deflect focus from renewables.”

6) “Watering Down” EU Climate Targets Risks Undermining UN Climate Deal
Responding to Climate Change, 26 February 2015

Ed King

The European Commission’s latest set of proposals for a UN climate deal could “severely undermine” efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, UK climate and energy chief Ed Davey has warned.

He said the UK strongly objected to plans – released on Wednesday – that would see naturally occurring carbon sinks like forests and wetlands used to meet the EU’s emissions reduction target of 40% on 1990 levels by 2030.

In a letter to European climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, dated February 24 and seen by RTCC, Davey said Brussels’ credibility as a climate leader is under threat.

“Implying that the land-use sector is included has the potential to severely undermine ambitions, as land is a sink and could impact ambition by 1-2%,” he wrote.

“This is not insignificant and the inclusion or not of land within the -40% was very clear’y not agreed in the October [2014] Council.”

A perception the EU is trying to wriggle out of its climate commitments could impact alliances with other countries in the run-up to Paris, where a UN deal is set to be agreed in December, he added. […]

European officials released the ‘Road to Paris’, outlining the bloc’s proposed contributions for the UN pact, on Wednesday.

At the launch Canete called them “ambitious” and said they proved the EU was “leading the way”. Europe would be the first major emitter to deliver its climate pledge to the UN, he said.

But civil society observers who have closely analysed the documents issued by Brussels say they contain loopholes and ignore past decisions made by member states.

In addition to land use and the 40% target, concerns have been raised over the Commission’s claim that domestic EU commitments cannot be increased ahead of Paris.

There is also concern that the Commission has downgraded the Europe’s 2050 emissions reduction goal from 80-95% to 80%.

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7) IPCC Needs To Transform To Scientific Organisation – Think Tank
Sputnik International, 26 February 2015

Daria Chernyshova

Global Warming Policy Forum urged drastically reform of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change following the resignation of the IPCC chairman amid sexual harassment allegations.

Sputnik

MOSCOW (Sputnik), Daria Chernyshova — One of the world’s most influential organizations in the sphere of climate change — the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — should be drastically reformed, the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) urged Wednesday following the resignation of the IPCC chairman amid sexual harassment allegations.

“[The] IPCC is seen as a green lobby-group rather than a scientific authority. And that is a problem because governments themselves need to trust this organization,” GPWF director Benny Peiser told Sputnik news agency Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Rajendra Pachauri stepped down as the chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning IPCC. He was accused of sexual harassment by a researcher. The IPCC unites presidents and prime ministers attempting to tackle climate change, and the IPCC chairman is seen as one of the most influential people advising governments in the area of energy and climate policy. Pachauri was at the IPCC helm for over 13 years.

In his resignation letter, Pachauri said that “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion and my dharma.”

Interpreting the letter, the GPWF director stressed it is very alarming that [the outgoing IPCC chairman sees] “the whole issue of climate change as [a] religion.” He noted that the IPCC has been one-sided and not objective, as it pushed out all those who disagreed with the “group’s religion.”

“The organization is extremely one-sided, it has pushed out anyone who has not accepted the general philosophy, the gist of the organization and instead of issuing balanced and objective reports, it has tended over the years to exaggerate the issue,” Peiser told Sputnik adding that the IPCC should include critical scientists, who are not a part of the organization at the moment.

At the same time, Peiser noted that the organization’s reports were quite good, but the “leadership cherry-picked the negative aspects and ignored the positive aspects that were also covered in the reports.”

“The lack of moderation, lack of balance and the lack of credibility – that is at the core of the problem and all we are asking the governments to do is to make the IPCC a more reliable and less alarmist organization that the governments could trust,” Peiser said.

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