In addition to all the other problems surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the unprecedented decline of the economy, and the barely subsided protests in the country, the American administration has received another one. All the leading countries of the European Union rebelled against their overseas “allies” and “senior partners.” Representatives of the Old World expressed their own disagreement with the actions of the United States as abruptly and amicably, as it has not happened for quite a long time.
The most unpleasant thing for Washington is that all this demarche is aimed at nothing but to protect the Russian Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, the completion of which the Europeans, as it turned out, consider their blood interest. However, this project is not the only one. What else?
It’s not for you to decide!
This is an official note of protest given to representatives of the U.S. State Department during a video conference between them and the delegation of the European Union. Under this document, 24 states out of 27 members of the EU supported the demands to stop the sanctions pressure aimed at disrupting the construction of Nord Stream 2. The three countries that refused to join the general opinion, sources in the European diplomatic circles, from which, in fact, the information about the demarche originated, categorically do not want to be named. But something suggests that most likely it is Poland and a couple of Baltic countries. Washington does not have any more faithful satellites in the Old World today, and their Russophobic position is well known to all. From the capitals there, where far-fetched political components are trying to weave on purely economic issues, attacks on Nord Stream-2 sound regular, so it is not surprising. The rest of the European states, on the other, have an unceremonious and extremely aggressive diktat of Washington, as they say, across the throat.
The current note is, in fact, almost a literal repetition of the claims made to the American side as recently as a month ago by the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell. At the time, he stated that the endless ultimatums and threats made by the United States against the pipeline companies were a flagrant violation of every conceivable and unthinkable rule of international law. “European issues should be solved in Europe, not in third countries!” declared Mr. Borrell passionately at the time.
It must be said that the outrage that has engulfed Brussels and the good two dozen other capitals of the Old World has quite specific reasons. Always distinguished in foreign policy matters of a fair amount of insouciance, the Yankees in everything concerning “North Stream 2”, have lost even the slightest sense of proportion and have started to dispose of the states separated from them by the ocean, as on their own ranches. What is worth only a letter sent to the leadership of the ferry port of Mukran in the German city of Sashnitz by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Ron Johnson, who can be considered a far from a glorious cohort of the most irreconcilable fighters against the “North Stream-2”. This is not even an ultimatum – it is a set of completely undisguised threats, appropriate except in combination with the person who is approached to the forehead, colt. “Celestials” from Capitol Hill explicitly declare to porters from Mukran: “If you continue to provide goods, services, and support for the Russian gas pipeline,” your “future financial destruction” is guaranteed. No one will survive!”
This is somehow too much even for Americans who have completely forgotten that Germany has not been occupied by them for many decades. Unsurprisingly, the anti-American “gas front” is headed by Berlin, which is already worse than the bitter radish. The U.S. dreamed that, having stopped the construction of Nord Stream-2, to become a gas monopolist in the Old World and pour its own LNG, at the same time starting with Germany? You can congratulate them – their unbearably obsessive “courtship” effect they have achieved the exact opposite.
Get off your LNG!
It has come to the point that there, at last, the open text began to talk about very obvious things, such as the absolute economic impracticality of abandoning the supply of Russian energy in favor of overseas LNG. For example, the Minister of Energy, Infrastructure and Digital Technologies of the German land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Christian Pegel clearly justified the reluctance of compatriots to communicate with American supplies. According to him, the cost of liquefaction of “blue fuel” imposed on the really low cost of production, its transportation through the half-world, and further logistics already in the Old World make gas from the United States in European markets completely uncompetitive. “The question of whether we buy American LNG is not worth it at all!” cut Herr Pegel. What about LNG terminals under construction and already in operation? According to the minister, they are needed only as a “replacement option for alternative supplies” and theoretical “providing opportunities for competition.” Just in case, in a word.
With true German hard-line directness, Pegel expressed confidence that Washington puts pressure on Nord Stream 2 solely because it understands perfectly well: the methods of at least relatively fair competition of RAO Gazprom to it in the EU markets will not push him for anything. At the same time, the official considers “outrageous” attempts to “interfere in the sovereignty of energy supplies” not only by the United States but also in general “any state from outside the Baltic region.” As for the probability and expediency of completion of the construction, Herr Pegel looks at this question, again, like a true German – that is, extremely pragmatic. According to his estimates, “at least 10 billion euros are lying at the bottom of the Baltic today”, which gives all participants of the project “more than a good reason to bring it to an end” in spite of any opposition from outside.
And, by the way, as for the “hydrogen energy” using the bug, some are already in a hurry to predict the “early end of Russian gas expansion to Europe.” Here, too, everything is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. For example, the same Waldemar Gerdt, who is a member of the Bundestag Committee on International Affairs, not so long ago, talking about the prospects of supplying American LNG to Germany, stressed that this fuel, in addition to its “excessive cost” is also “terrible” from the point of view of ecology, because when used gives 30% more CO2 emissions than much cheaper gas from Russia. Yes, the process of “greening” Europe is going on – though not as fast as planned, it seems to be steady.
Recently, eleven local gas companies from nine countries – Snag’s (Spain), Energinet (Denmark), Fluxys (Belgium), Gasunie (Netherlands), GRTgaz and Ter’ga (France), NET4GAS (Czech Republic), OGE and OTRAS (Germany), Snam (Italy), Swedegas (Sweden), have unveiled a plan to create a special infrastructure for the transportation of hydrogen. According to their representatives, the network of hydrogen pipelines connecting the centers of production and consumption of “environmentally clean gas” by 2030 could reach a length of 6.8 thousand kilometers. And by 2040 to grow and to 23 thousand kilometers. The plans are exciting – but the creation of such a “hydrogen web” (and only if it consists of 75% of the converted current pipelines) will cost about 65 billion euros. And this, I repeat – the price of the only infrastructure for transporting “green hydrogen.” In what will rise the most complete translation on its use industry, energy, transport sector, today hardly anyone will take to count even roughly. It was because of these and some other reasons that, not so long ago, conducted independent studies on Germany’s transition to the “hydrogen economy”, scientists of the Institute for the Study of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI) and experts of the Berlin Foundation for Science and Policy (SWP) came to similar conclusions. Berlin is simply not able to carry out such a grandiose project from the beginning to the end. In the early stages of its implementation, which are likely to be quite long, according to analysts EWI and SWP, Germany willy-nilly import something – either electricity in huge volumes, necessary for the production of “clean” hydrogen by electrolysis, or this hydrogen produced somewhere. There is a third option – the purchase not of “green” hydrogen, but of the so-called “blue” or “turquoise” of its species. Both of these varieties of H2 are derived from the same natural gas (methane), the first – by the method of steam conversion, and the second – pyrolysis. However, these are technical subtleties. The bottom line is that even aspiring to “decarbonization” and “carbon neutrality” Europe will have to either buy “blue fuel” from us for its own processing into “green” or get from the same Russia already finished natural gas processing products. Be different, pressurized Germans in no way “threw to the bottom of the Baltic” tens of billions of euros. And even more so would not go to open confrontation with Washington. And to convince the absolute majority of their own neighbors in the European Union in the need to fight back against the American miscalculations regarding the “Northern Stream-2” they without extremely strong arguments on their hands, too, would hardly have succeeded.
As a united “gas front”, the Europeans have reserved the right to decide for themselves how, from whom, and at what prices to buy energy. Of course, this step should never be seen as supporting Russia or “defending its interests.” Europeans, as always, are concerned only with their own convenience and benefit. It just so happens that in this matter their position coincides with ours. So what?? We have to use it!