It sounds boring, but it could hardly be more important. So here's a quick guide to the gas wars.(via the EdwardLucas email list)
A is for Armenia: a Russian ally trying to break ranks and buy gas from neighbouring Iran - busting the Russian gas monopoly. Will Russia allow it?
B is for the Baltic gas pipeline, Russia's expensive new plan which is aimed at keeping Western Europe hooked on its gas, while bypassing former captive nations like Poland and Ukraine.
C is for China. Russia's planned pipelines to China will create a choice of customers, while European countries will have only a monopoly supplier. Worried? You should be.
D is for diversification. If you buy your gas from just one source (eg Russia), you are a hostage. Go figure.
E is for "Energy Security", which means paying more for energy now in order to guarantee secure supplies later. A nice idea, with few takers F is for France: the country that has cleverly stuck to nuclear power, giving it an enviable dose of energy security.
G is for Georgia, which is now facing a de facto energy blockade after "terrorists" blew up the gas pipeline from Russia. Georgia earlier refused to sell its transit pipeline to Russia.
H is for Hungary, which earlier also had a nasty shock: despite its left-wing government's Russia-friendly policies, it still suffered a nasty hiccup in its gas supplies in the new year.
I is for intermediary companies that broker Russian gas sales to the former empire, such as the infamous, murkily owned, Rosukrenergo. No honest company needs these. When you see or smell one, run fast.
J is for Japan, which loves LNG: diversification is so much easier if you are rich.
K is for Khantsy (and Mantsy) the miserably treated and soon to be extinct ethnic minority, related to the Hungarians, who are the indigenous people in Russia's gas-rich western Siberia. None of the petro-roubles goes to them.
L is for Liquefied Natural Gas, available by the tanker-load from lots of different countries, creating elasticity, clarity and choice.
M is for Moldova, the most shamefully ignored victim of Russia's gas war. Russia is trying to grab its gas company.
N is for Norway, a nice safe source of Western gas, from which many Poles now wish they'd built a planned pipeline five years ago.
O is for Oman, another nice safe, plentiful faraway source of LNG.
P is for pipelines. They come from Russia, destroy competition and create monopolies and corruption. Avoid them if possible (see LNG)
Q is for Qatar, another source of LNG.
R is for renewable energy. Like energy security, a nice idea with no takers at the current price.
S is for Slovakia, where Russia has gobbled up the local gas pipelines.
T is for Turkmenbashi, the dictator of Turkmenistan. If he would agree, a pipeline across the Caspian Sea and Caucasus would solve all our problems. Our pigs would fly too.
U is for Ukraine, whose energy deal with Russia is unravelling already.
V is for Vladimir Putin, the man who has unleashed, albeit clumsily, Russia's energy weapon.
W is for weather - Russia's recent feeble excuse for a dip in supplies to its European customers.
X is for xenophobia (as in Russia's punishment of its former satellites).
Y is for Yamal, the Russian pipeline through Poland. Russia ran a telecoms cable along it - without informing the Polish authorities.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzz, the sound that you get once you start talking about dull but vital subjects like gas...
Monday, January 30, 2006
P is for Pipelines
In European Voice (paid sub required), Edward Lucas has an "A-Zzzzzzzzz guide to European gas wars":