How Europe became addicted to Russian gas despite Reagan’s warnings

The move immediately drew the ire of America’s European allies, where the $25 billion pipeline promised a stable source of gas at a time when nations were still reeling from the oil shocks of the 1970s. But inside the United States, it was the oil and gas lobby that hit back.

The sanctions would “further exacerbate our international reputation for commercial reliability,” the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents major oil and gas companies and pipeline makers, among numerous other industries, warned in a letter to the White House. In fact, the pipeline would give Western Europe “some leverage over the Soviets, not the other way around,” Richard Lesher, the group’s president, later told the Washington Post.

After intense lobbying, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to lift the sanctions, despite a letter from Secretary of State George P. Shultz warning that such legislation would “seriously cripple” the government’s ability to deal with the Polish crisis. would.

This struggle four decades ago marked the beginning of a massive expansion of gas infrastructure in Europe. Today, an extensive network of pipelines stretches from Russia to Europe, delivering about 40 percent of the continent’s gas.

This network has given Moscow leverage over its European neighbors. When Russia and Ukraine became embroiled in a diplomatic row in 2009, Russia cut off gas supplies, leaving tens of thousands of homes without heat. More than a dozen people froze to death, mostly in Poland, before Russia reopened its pipelines.

A plentiful flow of gas from Russia has had ramifications beyond safety, slowing Europe’s efforts to fight climate change by shifting to renewable energy, experts say. The European Union has announced that it will now reduce its gas imports by two-thirds and rapidly increase the use of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy.

“Of course, they could have done that earlier, but there was no incentive to do so,” said Margarita Balmaceda, a professor of diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University and a fellow at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Access to Russia’s gas, she said, has “definitely slowed down the shift to renewable energy.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/23/climate/europe-russia-gas-reagan.html How Europe became addicted to Russian gas despite Reagan’s warnings

Ian Walker

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