Energy sources undoubtedly have an important place in people’s daily life. These resources are important not only in terms of fuel, but also in terms of forming the raw material of many products. As a matter of fact, over 6,000 products are currently produced with petrochemicals derived from petroleum and natural gas. Therefore, in the 21st century, both states and societies have become dependent on oil and natural gas.
In this context, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the comments received from Prof. Dr. Małgorzata Kamola-Cieślik who is Szczecin University Faculty Member.
- After the Russia-Ukraine War, an energy crisis began to occur on a global scale. Therefore, states are reviewing their energy policies. In this respect, is it possible to say that Russia is an energy superpower?
The oil and gas sector in Russia is a major component of its economy. This industry is the main source of Russian budget revenue. Russia is one of the largest exporters of fossil fuels in the world, which has an impact on its strong dependence on revenues from the sale of oil, gas and coal. For several years, Russia has been ranked second behind the United States in the ranking of the largest oil producers. The situation is similar with gas. Russia is the second largest producer of gas (annually producing over 670 billion cubic meters) in the world after the United States and is among the top ten producers of hard coal.
Taking into account the last two decades of the twenty-first century, the European Union has become the main recipient of Russian raw materials, which has strengthened Russia’s position in relations with EU countries. In recent years, the EU has imported annually from Russia an average of about 49% of the hard coal it needs, 38% of natural gas and 26% of oil. The EU’s deepening dependence on Russian gas was influenced by, among others, the decision to build Nord Stream 1, the closure of nuclear power plants in Germany and the decommissioning of mines in most EU countries. It should be emphasized that the dependence of the countries on Russian energy resources varies. The most dependent are the countries of Central and Eastern Europe such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Germany and Italy. The turning point in energy security policy was the war in Ukraine. In 2022, the EU decided to gradually reduce its dependence on Russian energy resources, including an embargo on imports of Russian coal. In February 2023, a decision on the ban on the purchase, transport and transfer of LPG from Russia to EU Member States came into force. Crude oil imported into the EU via pipelines and natural and liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been exempted from sanctions. With regard to gas, the most optimistic plans assume that the full withdrawal of EU member states from this Russian gas will take place no earlier than in three years’ time. In addition, in 2022, the Union recorded a decrease in electricity coverage of around 3.7% compared to 2021. At the same time, Gazprom reduced gas supplies via Nord Stream to Germany by 60%, Italy by 15%, France completely, Slovakia by 50%. In 2022, Gazprom extracted 20% less gas than in 2021. Russia, seeing the changes taking place in the EU’s energy security policy, has increased its oil supplies to the Chinese and Indian markets.
The determination of the EU member states to impose further sanctions on Russia indicates that the period of dominance of Russian oil, hard coal and gas on the European market is coming to the end. Despite the increase in costs for energy resources, EU member states indicate that they will be ready to operate without Russian energy resources in the near future. The possibilities of limiting imports of individual energy resources from Russia are diverse. In order for the Union to become independent of them, it will be necessary to redirect their supply chain, infrastructure investments, development of renewable energy sources, increase the use of existing infrastructure (LNG terminals), construction of nuclear power plants and energy demand through changes in consumer behavior. Currently, in order to replace the shortfall in Russian gas supplies, the EU imports this raw material from the United States, Qatar and Algeria. In addition to eastern directions, the European Union imports oil from Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United States, and imports hard coal from the United States, Australia and South Africa.
- With the recent energy crisis, states have been in search of alternative ways-suppliers. One of these alternatives is new energy sources. In this context, shale gas is among the prominent sources. What effect do you think shale gas will have on the energy market?
In the twenty-first century, the United States was the first in the world to start large-scale production of gas from shale deposits. It is worth noting that the increase in shale gas production in the United States has translated into global natural gas markets. In addition, the extraction of unconventional gas has contributed to the fall in energy prices in the United States, the emergence of new jobs and an increase in the country’s energy security. It should be emphasized that the share of coal in US electricity production in the years 2007-2018 fell by a quarter compared to previous years.
The American shale revolution has changed the balance of power in the energy sector. Since 2011, the United States has been the leader in gas production in the world, overtaking Russia. For several years, the gas revolution in the United States has been felt by the EU countries. Shale gas began to compete with gas offered by Russia. The biggest problem of American gas was its price. Therefore, the complete elimination of Russian gas from the EU market was unprofitable for Europe. It was only in the face of the war in Ukraine that the EU countries began to import this raw material in larger quantities than before overseas. Shale gas from the United States offers an opportunity to increase diversification its suppliers. It should be noted that energy resources have a significant impact on relations between countries. They can give independence to the state, but also limit its activities.
In 2011, the EU estimated shale gas reserves in Europe at 33-38 trillion m³, while conventional resources at 2.4 trillion m³. There are no exploited shale gas deposits in Europe. Exploration of this raw material was carried out in Austria and Poland. Due to strict environmental laws, companies engaged in the exploration of gas from loot have abandoned their activities in Austria. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, also in Poland, among others, the American company Marathon Oil Company or the Irish company San Leon began to search for gas from shale. The high price of extraction of this raw material and the lack of a strategy of the Polish government in the exploration and extraction of shale gas resulted in an increase in investment risk and the withdrawal of companies from the exploration and exploitation of this raw material. At the same time, ecological circles and the local community were against shale gas extraction. Shale gas extraction meant environmental degradation, serious health and social problems, and high investment costs. For this reason, most EU countries were not and are not interested in shale gas extraction.
- Can the US make moves to reintroduce energy-rich countries such as Iran and Venezuela, which are subject to international sanctions, to the energy market?
The energy crisis in Europe caused by the war in Ukraine has forced Western countries to look for new sources of gas and oil supplies. The policy of US President Joe Biden gave hope to Europe for lifting sanctions against the Iranian oil and gas sector, and consequently lowering the price of fuel on global stock exchanges and obtaining a new supplier of energy resources by Europe. It should be noted that the acquisition of gas and oil from the Middle East by the EU would strengthen its policy towards Russia. Despite talks between the United States and Iran in 2022, the parties failed to reach a 2015 nuclear deal. Negotiations have been suspended indefinitely.
There is a high probability that a nuclear agreement between the countries will not take place in the near future, and with it the lifting of the embargo on Iran on oil and gas. One of the reasons is suspicions against Iran of supplying drones and ballistic missiles to Russia and for their use in the war against Ukraine. In addition, Iran is circumventing sanctions imposed on its energy exports by selling, among other things, crude oil to China. Back to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United States is not in the interests of Russia, which wants to maintain imbalances in the global energy market.
Regarding the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, at the end of 2022 the United States agreed to partially lift the oil embargo. The decision of the United States was made after the signing of an agreement between the ruling Nicolas Maduro and the opposition. Thus, it will partially resume oil production. It should be noted that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. In turn, the United States is looking for new suppliers of this raw material to compensate for the loss of Russian oil as a result of sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, the decision of the United States may be a harbinger of the lifting of further restrictions in the oil sector of Venezuela.
Prof. Dr. Małgorzata Kamola-Cieślik
PhD, University Professor in the Institute of Political and Security Sciences, University of Szczecin, political theorist. In her scientific and research work, she deals with political and economic changes taking place in Poland and in the world, energy security and the activities of coal companies and the shipbuilding industry. She devotes particular attention to the decisions of the Polish government regarding the restructuring of hard coal mining in the context of the climate and energy policy of the European Union and the changes taking place in the shipbuilding and ship recycling industry in the world. Author of books and articles published, among others, in: “Polish Political Science Yearbook” “Security. Theory and Practice” “Yearbook of International Security“ and “European Research Studies Journal”. Editor – in Chief of the journal of the Institute of Political and Security Sciences of the University of Szczecin “Acta Politica Polonica”.