Should Europe ban oil and gas imports from Russia? Can European Member States simultaneously prevent climate change, protect Europeans from rising fuel bills, and achieve energy independence from autocratic regimes? In 2021, 40% of the EU’s gas imports and over 25% of crude oil imports came from Russia. Some economists think the impact of an energy embargo against Russia would be catastrophic for Europe. Others argue the impact would be significant but manageable, and point out the morale imperative to stop funding war crimes in Ukraine.

What do our readers think? We had a question put to us by András, during a focus group we ran. He asked: “In your opinion, can the EU’s energy dependency be harmonised with our values and our security priorities? What’s the right direction?”

During a Friends of Europe event on EU carbon pricing, we put András’ comment to Beatriz Yordi, Director for Carbon Markets and Clean Mobility at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA). What would she say?

Let us recall the Paris Agreement [on Climate Change], which is part of our European values. Solidarity is also part of our European values. Let’s also remember the ETS (Emissions Trading System), last year, apart from providing a market signal, has put into the hands of Member States more than 30 billion euros, and these 30 billion euros have been used for solidarity, for investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, in modernisation (e.g. of the Hungarian electricity and energy system), so there is this second part of solidarity which is absolutely compatible with the Green Deal and which the Green Deal can accelerate.

Another point is resilience… something I’m proud of is that the 700 billion euro recovery plan for COVID-19 [will be paid] partly from the ETS (Emissions Trading System) and the CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism). So, the solidarity elements are part of our values and I think a harmonised market signal is part of our values.

For another perspective, we also sent András’ question to Tracey D’Afters, host of Friends of Europe’s Frankly Speaking podcast on the War in Ukraine (which you can subscribe to on Soundcloud or Spotify). In episode 8 of the podcast, Tracey put András’ question to Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe, former Reuters journalist, contributing editor at Politico and author of Friends of Europe’s newly published report on the Black Sea. How would Paul respond?

András has a good question, because there is one way in which we can harmonise our energy needs with our principles and values, which is by becoming more and more autonomous in our energy supplies. And that’s done by speeding up our transition to renewable energy sources; by making the best use of our own interconnections within Europe to share energy, whether those be pipelines or energy grids or reversible interconnectors between different countries’ energy systems. We’re not making optimal use of that and, for example, France has long blocked an energy pipeline through the Pyrenees, ostensibly on environmental grounds but, one suspects, also to protect the monopoly of EDF, the French electricity provider. And so that makes Iberia a bit of an isolated zone in energy terms.

That’s one thing. But, secondly, in the short- and medium- term, you will have noticed (and I’m sure András is aware) that the disposition of energy fossil fuels around the world – resources of reserves of oil and gas – does not overlap with the map of liberal democracies in the world. So we will have to, in an interim period, buy energy from countries that don’t share our values and political system. That’s unavoidable. We can reduce that by making the efforts I’ve described. However, we can also reduce our dependency on any one of those authoritarian regimes by diversification. That’s already started with the attempt to get Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), but that brings into play countries which are not Jeffersonian democracies: I’m talking about the United Arab Emirates; I’m talking about Qatar; and one or two countries are being brought out of quarantine, such as Venezuela, which has not become more democratic or less corrupt overnight, but because the United States wants to diversify energy supply.

So, in the short- to medium- term, we are going to have to balance our dictatorships against each other in our energy supply. But, in the long-term, we are going to have to tap the sun and other things which are not authoritarian and are not opposed to our values.

Finally, we had another question posed during a focus group we ran, this time by Michael, who asked: “How do you think the Ukraine crisis might make the US and EU reconsider their relationships with Saudi Arabia?”

Tracey posed Michael’s question to Jamie Shea, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO. What did he think?

Well, I think Paul already broached this very well; The lesser evil sometimes has to be chosen over the greater evil. You’ve seen Boris Johnson go to Riyadh over the last couple of days, President Biden has been trying to phone the Crown Prince – I understand he was rebuffed at first. So, there is a sense of once again going to the Saudis, as we used to do in the past during the great oil shocks of the ’70s, to ask them to ramp up their production. The Saudis have some of the largest, easily-tappable oil reserves. They are able to ramp up production quickly, in a way that many countries can’t because they don’t have the infrastructure or the technology; and, of course, the Saudis have been, in the past, very dependent on Western arms for their security, so we have had effective levers over them.

But, of course, we are in a different situation these days, where sometimes our policies contradict each other. For example, when Joe Biden became President he did something I think admirable, which is he blocked US military sales, in certain categories, to the Saudis because he wanted to put pressure on them to make peace in Yemen, and there was the uproar when the Saudis were implicated in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul a few years ago. So, we started to get tough on these authoritarians that Paul was speaking about and then suddenly realised we need them after all to help us out of a hole with the energy crisis. So, geopolitics has not gone away, and we are going to have to balance short-term realpolitik with much nobler long-term goals of greening our economies, getting out of fossil fuels, and going into renewables. But it’s not going to be an easy act – for example, environmental lobbies are not at all happy that, in the UK, we are thinking of going back to fracking, the big company Royal Dutch Shell has just reversed a decision when it comes to exploring for oil in the North Sea because the oil price has gone up and it’s now commercially viable.

So, firstly: we’re going to have some short-term fixes, because do we want to see the Yellow Vests all over the streets of Paris, or London, or Berlin protesting about falling living standards in the next couple of months? Clearly not. Second thing: we’re going to have to diversify, as Paul has said. And, thirdly, we’re going to have to keep the environmental lobby rightly happy (and in our own interest) by somehow combining this with pushing ahead with the EU’s Green Deal, all of the plans to move to renewables. It sounds a contradiction, but diplomats are paid to produce coherence out of contradictions.

Finally, how would Paul Taylor respond to Michael?

There’s one other factor which hasn’t been sufficiently put in play so far, which is getting our own populations to reduce their energy use. Both of us are old enough to remember the ’70s oil crisis, when there were countries where you could only drive one day out of two, depending on whether you had an odd or an even licence plate number (some enterprising people managed to have two). There are all sorts of things that we can do – turning the heat down, showering with a friend *laughs* (or at least showering shorter), that can make a difference to our energy consumption. And cutting out the waste of energy – there is still more to be done there and on energy efficiency.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) came up with a very simple to-do list of ten points to reduce our dependency on imported oil and gas. Our leaders ought to be paying much more attention to that, and I think we need to be leading a civil society response of ‘turn the lights off to thwart Putin’.

Can the EU have an ethical energy policy? Should Europe ban oil and gas imports from Russia? Can European Member States simultaneously prevent climate change, protect Europeans from rising fuel bills, and achieve energy independence from autocratic regimes? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by NASA on Unsplash
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    We need more investments and diversification in the Energy sector. Energy companies should be like the mobile operators. You can subscribe to any one you need who offers you a better deal.

    In Bulgaria the Energy companies are:

    Е.ОN (German) they left
    EVN (Austrian)
    CZE (Czech)
    Energo-Pro (Czech)

    in Germany:

    Siemens Energy (German)
    RWE (German)
    Vattenfall (Swedish)
    E.ON (German)

    in France:

    EDF (French)
    ENEDIS (French)

    In Serbia:

    Elektroprivreda Srbije
    Restart Energy DOO

    In Romania:

    ENEX S.R.L.
    ENGIE Romania
    E.ON Moldova
    E.ON Energie Romania

    In Sweden:

    E.ON (German)
    Ellevio (Swedish)
    Vatenfall (Swedish)

    The United Kingdom of Great Britian:

    Electricity North West (previously NORWEB)
    ESB Networks (SWALEC)
    Northern Ireland Electricity
    Northern Powergrid (Northern Electric & Yorkshire Electricity)
    Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (previously Scottish Hydro-Electric)
    Scottish Power
    South Wales Electricity
    South Western Electricity
    UK Power Networks (LPN-EPN & SPN)
    Western Power Distribution (Central Networks, Infralec & SWEB)

    Czech Republic:

    CEZ Distribuce (Czech)
    E.ON Distribuce (German)
    PREdistribuce (Czech)

    The Nuclear energy is way to cheaper and effective and it is also ecological friendly so it is way better than using natural resources like wind powers.

  2. avatar

    These are the biggest electric companies in the world.

    1. Siemens – German

    2. General Electric Co – USA

    3. Iberdrola – Spanish

    4. Engie – French

    5. KEPCO – South Korean

    6. TEPCO – Japanese

    7. EDF – French

    8. Enel – Italian

    Most of the European countries have a privatized energy sector and this came all from Western Europe. The national electric companies were banned.

    The people need to stand up find courage and protest against the high unethical prices and look for their rights.

  3. avatar

    The embrace of Russian money by German politicians was outright unethical. Hence, time these ties are entirely severed. Merkel and Schröder were wrong all the way.

  4. avatar
    JT HK

    Cut dependency on Russia and turn to dependency on the US is even worse as we have seen that the US is a warmonger and hegemon. Russia has not the hegemonic power to pressurize EU but the US has.

    • avatar

      JT HK USA are not warmonger and have hegemonic power! They had to involve or were beged to involve in some wars to protect the democracies around the world! Democraty and freedom Russia, China and other states around the world had never experienced yet! Europa is with EU and NATO, if Russia and Putin does not like it, they should move themselves out of Europe brothers. There is enough land for them in Asia close to Mongolia and China! Russians don’t dictates us what we want and have to do! Russians should take care of their own corruption, dictature, mafia, criminality, human rights abuses and general speaking own crap 💩 ! Because there is plenty of it!! Whoever supports Russia in this war with Ucraina, it means that they support the genocit and the war crimes are happening there! Shame on you!

  5. avatar

    using being ethical as an excuse is ridiculous. The EU needs to be honest about why they don’t want gas from Russia. As there is nothing ethical in the EU. From slave labour products to charging rent on money. That is called hypocrisy. Secondly, Russia is well within its rights to protect itself from its traitorous neighbour Ukraine, who is putting NATO bases right on Russia’s doorstep. So there is nothing unethical about Russia. if anything, the EU and Ukraine are the unethical ones here. But if the EU doesn’t want gas from Russia for whatever reason, then they need to have a plan of alternatives. Green energy is a great direction. Plus EU member country Cyprus has gas, and EU and US investors that will profit from it.

    • avatar

      Europa is with EU and NATO, if Russia and Putin does not like it, they should move themselves out of Europe brothers. There is enough land for them in Asia close to Mongolia and China! Russians don’t dictates us what we want and have to do! Russians should take care of their corruption, dictature, mafia, criminality, human rights abuses and general speaking own crap! Because there is plenty of it!

    • avatar

      Russia will kill Ukranians for endangering Russia. That is an unchanegable fact. If the Ukrainian President and Parliament make bad decisions, by becoming traitors to their neighbours, then their traitorous decisions will get their citizens killed. If you want to call that free-will, do so. I call it as it is, an irresponsible, reckless and dangerous decision that is getting Ukrainians killed for NATO agendas. I can see the Ukrainian president and parliament are happy to sacrifice Ukrainians’ lives for NATO. But, why do Ukrainians want to die for NATO? I wouldn’t want to die for unrelated NATO agendas to my own country.

    • avatar

      You did not read what I wrote! Russians have plenty of land in Asia, why you guys don’t move away from brothers with Europe specially if you guys feel so streathen? 🤔 Near Mongolia and China will be perfect! Russia is endanger Europe, not Europe Rusia! We are not barbarians like you guys!! Russians had never lived in democracy and freedom yet, and you guys are taking about freedom, normality and democracies? 🤔 Ucrainans want freedom, democracy and away from Russian dictature, that’s all!

    • avatar

      Ukraine can be free, independent and neutral. By wisely choosing to be neutral, and not being a dangerous traitor to their Russian neighbours, Ukraine can live in peace instead of war.

    • avatar

      I am so in doubt! We can see that “peace” it is offered! Russia finds excuses for war with them! We are smarter than you think, we don’t believe it!! By the way Ucrainan is not in NATO, even if they wish that, they cannot be in NATO because they don’t fulfill the criterias yet to be accepted. Ucraina is not a traitor country or neigbours, they just wish to do what’s best for themselves, and that’s not Russia’s business! Russia should take care of their own 💩!

    • avatar

      Ukraine has NATO bases. There are no excuses for Russia as it is Ukraine that is the traitor country here. How is Ukraine smart when they choose to put enemy NATO bases on their neighbour Russia’s border that is getting Ukrainians killed? That is called using free-will and making bad decisions that lead to self-sabotage. I cannot take away your blindness to the simple reality. You are closed to facts and root causes. So stop bleating at me and talking rubbish. Keep making decisions that get you all killed if that is your ‘free-will choice’. You are living the consequences of your bad decisions as a nation.

  6. avatar

    Norway, UK, Denmark and some others have enough petrolium and gas as resource here in Europe, but of course more expensive… Germany should stop excusing itself by still buying gas and petrolium from Russia! Enbargou is a enbargou and it should be respected 100%!
    Europa and the world should move as fast as possible to renewable energies! Renewable energies are the right answer for everyone and everything! The world is in trouble!! The wild forest fires we experience on the globe are just the beginning, we are at the risc of apocalyptic sceneries, if menkind does not fight hard against climate change!! If Europe were spending so much money on renewable energies, as they spent on gas and petrolium from Russia, we were far ahead advanced by now!

  7. avatar
    JT HK

    Does EU really know what is “ethical”? Who has the authority to set and judge what is “ethical”? When the Republicans and some democrats object to Biden admin’s cutting Covid budge for Ukraine “humanitarian aid” while over 1 million Americans died in the pandemic and still there are Americans dying. Who is more ethical? In the II Guld War, the US invaded Iraq and killed more than 100K people. The US sanctions on Iraq had led to death over 1 million people. Is this ethical?

  8. avatar
    JT HK

    Is is ethical to give weapon for the Ukrainians and Russians to kill each other? EU ought to feel shameful to talk about ethical by fueling the war and bringing Europe in a chaotic and dangerous situation. This would cause more damage to Europe’s social and economic situation.

  9. avatar

    You something new and interesting as a fact. After the fall of communism in most eastern European countries the Mafia gained control of the businesses. Now it is very difficult in countries like Hungary, Bulgaria or Albania to get investments.This could also be true for Russia and Ukraine, but some people in these countries are afraid to fight the Mafia since they could take revenge. The European commission planned to diversify electric resources and more energy companies to come, but this could be a tough job.

  10. avatar

    The climate requires us to rid ourselves from oil and gas dependence anyway. How long will it take for this reality to sink in I wonder.

  11. avatar

    By banning nuclear energy in Europe EU created chaos and dependancy

    • avatar

      nah man we can power our needs through fairy dust farts!
      If we wish it hard enough we can!

  12. avatar

    Using the word ‘overwhelmingly’ would benefit from background stats or a graph of which countries import how much oil and gas from Russia.

  13. avatar
    JT HK

    By supporting the American proxy Zelensky’s effort, Europe is actually helping to prolong the war and supporting a president who has threatened to execute soldiers who are being trapped in the Azovstal plant. By fueling the war, Europe would harm themselves as already reflected upon the rocketing inflation and forthcoming fuel and food crisis.

  14. avatar

    If we stop listening to the greens dementia and go nuclear. Yes.
    Or we can do like germany:
    Close our nuclear plants and be forced to open the carbon plants..
    because energy do not grows on trees.
    And the sun do not shine at night.
    Because that is smart.
    “But but muh ambientalism.. muh green”
    (Autistic green sounds)
    Making energy more expensive don’t magically make people care for the environment. Quite the opposite.
    Or you could go listen to greta. You know. I prefer to stick to reality.

  15. avatar
    JT HK

    Is it ethical to pay for the Ukraine and Russia to kill each other. What is ethical is China that provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian people. Is it ethical for Ukraine’s leader Zelensky who has threatened to execute soldiers trapped inside the Azovstal plant where they lack food and medical treatment even Russia called them to survive and promised not to harm them.

  16. avatar

    Weapons Kill Sanctions Kill Please Support the High Level Conversation. Please Give Peace a Second Chance.

  17. avatar

    It should first and before all have an ecological energy policy. One that fits with the scientific numbers, which are dire, because we are at 422ppm and at 450ppm ecological collapse becomes pretty much locked in. At current global emission rates, this will happen by 2030. So the real ethical discussion is first intergenerational. Now if we can ride the Putin wave to ween ourselves off fossil fuel addiction, I’m happy to thank him for it.

  18. avatar

    A união europeia já está a destruir o nível de e vida das pessoas á muitos anos. Vai conseguir para depois implementar o planejado.

  19. avatar

    The EU has hidden agendas and they are bullies. They have gone too far. It is obvious they are the enemy of both EU citizens and Russia. The EU has become a disgusting disgrace since Bovid, and now with their traitorous bullying of Russia and the destruction that they are bringing to EU, Ukrainian and Russian citizens.

  20. avatar
    JT HK

    I do not see why EU has turned a blind eye to the growing neo-Nazism in Ukraine instead turning to sanction Russia which seeks to stop such a pathological development in Ukraine. Commentary: “Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem” by Josh Cohen has already been warning people in the 2018>>>…/us-cohen-ukraine-commentary…

  21. avatar
    JT HK

    Look at your new inflation of 7.5% before talking about ethical energy policy. When Europe is sanctioning Russia energy is to prolong the killing and torture of the Ukrainian people and draining of European blood to save a dying hegemon, it is definitely not ethical EU’s current sanction policy. This serves also to punish the European people who have been under the torture of Covid for more than 2 years when hope for social and economic recovery ruined. Any rational and ethical policy is not possible when Europe is in war.

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