No one doubts that energy supply has a significant political component. But some countries pretend not to realise it.
Like a patient who doesn’t really care who his kidney donor is, Westerners tend to overlook not only the internal ghastliness of some suppliers but even the strategic risk they present.
Thus it wouldn’t be stretching the limits of credulity to suggest that, say, America’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia isn’t really a case of two soul mates united in their sense of values and common pursuit of goodness.
Neither is it a secret that Russia has been using hydrocarbons as a geopolitical weapon for decades. The strategy has been two-fold.
First, the Russians encourage Europe to develop addiction to Russian gas mainlined into the veins of European economies. Second, they do all they can to prevent the West from becoming self-sufficient.
This explains the febrile campaign against nuclear power the Soviets instigated, financed and more or less ran, partly through their fronts, such as the CND. Nuclear mushrooms adorned Soviet and some Western newspapers every time another nuclear power station opened.
Characteristically, it was only the West that was supposed to be at risk of such a physically impossible calamity (the uranium grade used in power stations can’t produce an explosion).
Thus, while the communist state in East Germany was densely covering the country with nuclear plants, its offshoot, the Communist Party of West Germany, was organising massive rallies against a similar development west of the border.
The purpose was transparent: to increase Europe’s dependence on Russia and its client states. In other words, the Soviets were adding oil to the fire of the Cold War.
The global campaign against nuclear power invariably reached hysterical pitch whenever a nuclear accident occurred, and Western media, not always hostile to Soviet interests, were always ready to add a helping hand.
To this day the accidents at America’s Three Mile Island and Japan’s Fukushima are described as ‘nuclear disasters’, leaving one to wonder what word would be used to describe accidents in which people actually died.
So far the only murderous nuclear disasters have occurred at Soviet power stations, proving that nuclear power is only unsafe in the hands of technologically backward, morally irresponsible regimes that have scant regard for human lives.
But in our impressionable world perception is reality and, though nuclear energy is by far the safest of all that can actually provide our energy needs, it’s being phased out. Those bogus mushrooms have had a cumulative effect.
Britain and France, which derives 75 per cent of its energy from atomic plants, are rolling back, while Germany has proudly announced that all its nuclear power stations will be shut by 2022.
Moreover, Angie Merkel, deeply sensitive to planetary concerns, is also getting rid of all the coal-powered stations, which makes inquisitive minds ask where in that case energy is going to come from. (Britain, incidentally, plans to follow suit.)
One possible answer is shale gas, of which the world in general, and the US in particular, has practically unlimited supplies. Shale gas has already turned America into a net exporter of energy, and it’s expected to keep US and Canada warm and light for another century at least.
Problem solved? Not quite. Here we’d be well-advised to dust off that old anti-nuke LP, put it on and listen to the same familiar tune.
You see, extracting shale gas involves a technique called hydraulic fracturing, fracking for short.
This technique is supposed to offend some planetary sensibilities, even though its potential for causing earthquakes and other ecological nastiness is somewhat hypothetical. What’s real is that fracking makes it possible to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.
But when it comes to energy sources that can make the West self-sufficient, no balance sheets of pluses and minuses are kept. Such sources are held down to zero-risk standards and, since these are unattainable by definition, anti-fracking hysteria is deafening.
Instead the West is expected to reverse half a millennium of technological progress and revert to producing energy by wind, sun and water. Should we then also ditch antibiotics, while we’re at it? They too have side effects.
The old song that’s being played all over Europe brings back the anti-nuke campaigns of yesteryear, with ‘fracking’ replacing ‘nuclear’ in the refrain. And the inspiration is exactly the same: to make the West dependent on evil regimes, ideally Russia or her allies.
Russia is the world’s biggest supplier of natural gas, accounting for 35 per cent of Europe’s consumption. Yet the distribution is uneven among various EU members.
Gazprom supplies 100 per cent of Finland’s and the Baltics’ gas, 83 per cent of Hungary’s, 62 per cent of Austria’s, 57 per cent of Poland’s, 45 per cent of Germany’s and so on.
What is already a dangerous dependency will become a toxic addiction when the next two lines of the pipeline Nord Stream-2 come on stream. The immediate consequence will be an inordinate growth of Russia’s power in Europe, especially its eastern part.
That worries all Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular, and Eastern Europe, with the possible exception of Oban’s Hungary. But it doesn’t worry Angie Merkel, making one wonder if her relationship with Putin would withstand the same scrutiny as that to which Trump is subjected.
Speaking at this year’s Davos forum, Merkel explained that, since “natural gas will play an ever-increasing role for another several decades… we’ll continue to get it from Russia… because energy must be affordable.”
Alas, affordable energy may be dear at the price. And the price in this case will be Putin’s growing power to blackmail Europe into doing his bidding – as he’s already blackmailing the Ukraine and its neighbours.
Merkel’s statement was tantamount to admitting that she doesn’t mind such a development in the least. That puts another weapon into the hands of Europe’s most wicked regime, and this weapon may well prove scarier than nuclear missiles.