Europe is about to face a cold and unforgiving winter in light of a severe and unprecedented energy crisis. This crisis has left everyone confused as they reorganize their priorities in the face of political variables and economic complexities resulting from the consequences of the pandemic and the war in Europe.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU joined the US and others in imposing sanctions and embargoes on Russian natural gas, even though many EU countries depend on Russian energy imports.
These measures have led to an insanely high price increase, which has caused a sharp rise in the cost of living for many Europeans. Some European governments have already started reducing energy consumption by limiting the use of air conditioners in public buildings and requiring shops to turn off their lights at night. But it looks like the crisis will only get worse and governments are busy preparing for what will be a very harsh winter.
Indeed, policymakers across the EU are focused on supporting domestic supplies. In this framework, EU countries have entered into bilateral agreements to obtain energy from alternative suppliers, including Algeria, Canada and Qatar. And now governments are discussing the proper way to build pipelines to transport the gas through southern and central European countries. At the same time, European leaders are seriously considering how to make their countries more energy efficient.
In July, the Council of the EU approved an energy saving plan which obliges member states to reduce their gas consumption by 15% by this winter. Some governments – including France, Italy and Spain – have set specific consumption reduction targets, but other member states, such as Germany, have been reluctant to take action to implement them. .
However, such measures fail to solve the crisis facing Europe. Indeed, European governments are treating the symptoms of their predicament and ignoring the causes.
Indeed, Europe will only be able to set itself on the path to greater energy security through a coordinated foreign policy, and not through individual and fragmented national responses.
For example, gas consumption in German industries has only decreased by 20%, not to save money, but because production has dropped dramatically.
Some Western diplomats argue that the idea of punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin by impoverishing millions of European families is unacceptable. Indeed, in addition to causing the destruction of national industries in Western Europe, it also contributes to increasing the profits of the Russian company Gazprom by several billions.
Cheap energy is the most important condition for the survival and development of Western industries in all fields and sectors, and it is an inevitable and historic issue; everyone can reread modern history and the first and second world wars.
The search for energy alternatives is good for some, like Egypt, which can benefit from solar energy. But in Europe, the situation is different. There is currently no alternative except oil and its derivatives or a return to the Middle Ages through the use of coal.
The only real beneficiaries of the Ukraine crisis are the American hydraulic fracturing suppliers who earn 200 million euros for each tanker they send to Europe. Europeans can indeed fill their petrol tanks, but at a high financial cost, which will have direct repercussions in industry and in the pockets of the European citizen before that, since this is the middle class, which must pay the difference in these prices.
The malicious purpose behind all this is to transfer the centers of European industries to the United States because the price of gas in Europe is currently eight times higher than the price of gas in the United States!
This is how Europe contributes to sacrificing itself so that the United States maintains its status as a great power, even though it was Europe that suffered from stagnation and economic decline at the start of the Ukrainian crisis.
* Hatem Sadek is a professor at Helwan University