Putin’s divorce from fossil fuels must not result in a toxic marriage between the EU and US gas barons

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 10 Min Read
origin 1An illustration of workers operating an LNG gas terminal ©Midjourney/RockedBuzz via Euronews

The Russian invasion of Ukraine last year resulted in a massive increase in US gas exports to Europe.

US gas exports to Europe increased 140% in 2022 compared to 2021, and a record 17 long-term contracts were signed between European companies and US LNG terminals.

Dozens of new LNG terminals have been built, are under construction or are proposed on both sides of the Atlantic.

The health, social and environmental consequences of this massive accumulation are extremely disastrous. And they are entirely avoidable.

The new EU LNG terminals would have a total carbon footprint of 950 million tonnes CO2-eq per year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 200 million cars.

‘Winter of crisis’: Renewables and €12 billion in energy savings stalled EU’s return to fossil fuels
Protests in Vienna: 143 demonstrators arrested at demonstration against the European Gas Conference

And some contracts signed by European and US companies lock us into two decades or more of such pollution, well past the deadline needed to phase out fossil gas.

These contracts also require more export and import terminals. Once built, they could be used by polluters to help further delay the phase-out date to prevent them from turning into stranded assets.

This construction goes against science: our planet cannot (and should not) afford any expansion of fossil fuels if we are to avoid the worst climate impacts.

Unnecessary decisions only further perpetuate crises

It’s also incredibly unhelpful: building new terminals can take up to five years and therefore does nothing to meet current energy needs.

A new report from Greenpeace International finds that existing capacity at European LNG terminals is already greater than needed.

Here’s what it’s like to be pressured by the fossil fuel industry and why it needs to stop
Women are disproportionately harmed by the fossil fuel industry. This has to change

Even in 2022 – the busiest LNG year to date, when Russia’s fossil fuel supply to Europe was drastically reduced – terminal utilization rates across Europe remained low and had higher capacity than normally request.

origin 1Activists occupy the railroad track in front of a chemical company in Brunsbuttle, northern Germany, to protest a proposed LNG terminal at the site, July 2021AP Photo/Jonas Walzberg

It is no coincidence that we have bad policies. The policies were defined by ENTSOG, the largest gas industry group in the EU.

European governments have mandated ENTSOG to find “the solution” to the energy crisis, a crisis created primarily by dependence on the fossil fuel industry.

It’s no wonder that a gas lobby is recommending much the same thing, thereby perpetuating both the energy and climate crises.

Instead of seeking energy independence, Europe has chosen much the same

Europeans now have to pay for new infrastructure for an industry they have only recently bailed out.

And they will pay even more in the future, when promises to convert those terminals back to green hydrogen prove technically complicated, financially expensive and based on unproven calculations.

Finland opens floating liquefied natural gas terminal to replace Russian supply
Energy crisis: EU gas cap to be ‘immediately’ suspended if LNG cargoes go elsewhere, officials say

Instead of trying to sustain a gas-dependent energy system, this crisis could be a time to invest in real solutions to both keep our planet habitable and meet our energy needs.

Gas is widely used in Europe for energy production, industry and over 30% of domestic heating.

LNG is making it worse: While Russian carrier gas was already a climate killer, LNG emissions… make its impact on climate far worse.

origin 1Workers walk past the floating LNG terminal ‘Hoegh Gannet’ in the industrial port of Brunsbuettel, January 2023Marcus Brandt/dpa

This makes it heavily dependent on imports, and instead of using the crisis with Russia to detach itself from gas altogether, the EU has switched to the US only as an alternative supplier of an even dirtier gas: LNG.

On the US side, most LNG production and export facilities are located near low-income communities, which already suffer from the well-documented health impacts of the oil and gas industry, even in the horrifically dubbed ” cancer alley”.

Now the climate crisis devastates the whole of America.

And LNG is making matters worse: While Russian pipeline gas was already a climate killer, LNG emissions – from liquefaction, transportation and regasification, to power generation, as well as methane leaks – make the its impact on the climate.

Russia’s war should not be used as an excuse

Gas producers and operators have used Russia’s war on Ukraine to deflect US and European policy priorities away from climate goals, telling a story about energy security.

Yet a divorce from Russia’s fossil fuels need not end in a miserable new marriage of US-EU gas barons. European consumers don’t have to sponsor their own shock treatment.

The top five oil and gas companies made record profits in 2022, while citizens were facing skyrocketing energy bills.

origin 1A fisherman walks on the ice of the Gulf of Finland past the Lakhta Center business tower, headquarters of Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom in St. Petersburg, March 2023AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky

The top five oil and gas companies made record profits in 2022, while citizens were facing skyrocketing energy bills.

If invested in renewables, the dividends and share buybacks paid to shareholders in 2022 could be the down payment to generate 79% of US electricity or 111% of EU electricity in 2021.

‘Great power’: New UN climate adviser says young people are key to transition to renewable energy
Nuclear, hydrogen and bioenergy: what does the new EU agreement on renewables mean for Member States?

You don’t need miracles. Yet instead of investing their historic profits in aligning their business model with the Paris climate accord, they returned large sums to shareholders.

Our focus should be transformative climate action

We cannot let the continuing energy crisis be used to further deprive us of any hope we have of halting the worst impacts of climate change.

Instead, we need to shift political power away from the fossil fuel industry, hold them accountable, and implement immediate measures to support climate goals and benefit citizens.

A massive building insulation plan would mean lower energy demands. An accelerated shift to renewable energy would mean cheaper procurement.

Protecting our homes from a climate catastrophe means phasing out LNG from the global north by 2030, phasing out pipelined gas by 2035, and becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

origin 1Residents and environmentalists protest in Binz on the island of Ruegen, Germany, April 20, 2023 Jens Buettner/dpa

Citizens voted for transformative climate action. Protecting our homes from a climate catastrophe means phasing out LNG from the global north by 2030, phasing out pipelined gas by 2035, and becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Blocking fossil fuel companies from politics, enacting due diligence laws, imposing transparency, and ending access to decision-making and climate talks for lobbies like ENTSOG would be shock treatment for the oil and gas industry itself.

Environmental groups are suing the EU for labeling gas and nuclear power as “green” investments.
OPEC cuts could boost oil prices in favor of Moscow

Charging polluters and holding them accountable – following a colonial and neocolonial legacy that leaves billions exposed to unprecedented climate risks – would finally do justice.

Anusha Narayanan leads the global campaign to stop the expansion of fossil fuels at Greenpeace USA, and Tal Harris is the campaign’s global communications manager.

At RockedBuzz via Euronews, we believe that all opinions matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send proposals or contributions and join the conversation.

Share This Article
Leave a comment