Following Russia’s gas supply cuts in 2006 and 2009, the EU was prompted to take steps in consolidating the security of its gas market, and Putin’s aggressive policy in Europe, with the recent Ukrainian Crisis encouraged it to increase its efforts. No one wants to see another gas shortage in Europe. The cuts in 2006 and 2009 were brief but disastrous for some countries like the Baltics, Slovakia and Bulgaria but also for non-EU members including the Ukraine and Moldova.
As George Friedman once mentioned:
“the Russians have 3 cards to play against the West and one of them is natural gas. We have already seen the cut offs of natural gas. They are experimenting, trying to see who will respond and how. They’re playing a psychological game.”
Europe gets around 30% of its gas from Russia and, looking at the map of Europe from West to East, one can see a growing dependence on Russian natural gas. (Romania being the only exception).Tired of Moscow’s psychological games, and concerned with their national energy security, countries like Lithuania and Romania, with some support from the European Union, have engaged in projects meant to diminish Gazprom’s influence in the region.
Romania and the Republic of Moldova joined efforts and spent €26 million to build the Iasi-Ungheni gas pipeline (with some EU financing), meant to supply Moldova with Romanian gas. This project has more of a symbolic value rather than economic, since the local energetic infrastructure is severely underdeveloped making the quantities of gas minute. Further investment is needed to make this project an economic success.
After three years, spending over $128 million, with a capacity of 170.000 cubic meters, the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) Terminal in Klaipeda, Lithuania, has taken a big step towards achieving Natural-Gas Independence from Russia. LNG transporting vessels will be anchoring on the Lithuanian coast where the liquefied natural gas will be converted into natural gas, and then distributed within the country, freeing Lithuania from Gazprom’s monopoly.
This was a courageous and well-timed decision as Russia is becoming more unpredictable and thus the future natural gas supply more uncertain. This gas alternative gives Lithuania bargaining power when negotiating the gas price with the Russians. In the past Lithuania, along with Estonia and Latvia paid some of the highest gas prices in the EU. Since the terminal can cover 80% of the Baltic’s needs the Lithuanian leaders want to go even further and share this new independence with their northern neighbours. However, this may be a challenge. Currently there is no gas market between the Baltic States and Finland, and the interlinks between countries are weak.
This is a breakthrough for the whole region which proves that Natural-Gas independence from Russia is possible and necessary for the long term stability of the European Union.
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