Europe is about to face a cold and merciless winter in light of an unprecedented and severe energy crisis. This crisis left everyone in a state of confusion as they rearrange their priorities in the face of political variables and economic complexities arising from the aftermath of the pandemic and the war in Europe.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU joined the US and others in imposing sanctions and embargoes on Russian natural gas, even though many EU countries depend on Russian energy imports.
These measures have led to an increase in insanely high prices, which has caused a sharp rise in the cost of living for many Europeans. Some European governments have already begun to reduce energy consumption by limiting the use of air conditioners in public buildings and requiring stores to turn off their lights at night. But it looks like the crisis will only get worse and governments are busy preparing for what will be a very harsh winter.
Indeed, policymakers across the EU are focusing on supporting national supplies. Within that framework, EU countries concluded bilateral deals to secure energy from alternative suppliers, including Algeria, Canada, and Qatar. And now, governments are discussing the appropriate way to build pipelines to transport gas through southern and central European countries. In parallel, European officials are seriously considering how to make their countries more energy efficient.
In July, the EU Council approved an energy-saving plan that requires member states to cut gas consumption by 15% by this winter. Some governments — including France, Italy, and Spain — have set specific targets for reducing consumption, but other member states, such as Germany, have been reluctant to take measures to implement it.
However, moves of this kind fail to address the crisis that Europe is facing. This is because European governments deal with the symptoms of their predicament and ignore the causes.
Indeed, Europe will only be able to put itself on the path to enhanced energy security through coordinated foreign policy, not individual, fragmented national responses.
For example, the consumption of gas in German industries decreased only by 20% not to save money, but because production fell dramatically.
Some western diplomats argue that the idea of punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin by impoverishing millions of European families is unacceptable. This is because, in addition to causing the destruction of national industries in Western Europe, it also contributes at the same time to increasing the profits of Russian company Gazprom by billions.
Cheap energy is the most important condition for the survival and development of Western industries in all fields and sectors, and this is an inevitable and historical matter; everyone can re-read modern history and the first and second world wars.
The search for energy alternatives is good for some, such as Egypt, which can benefit from solar energy. But in Europe, the matter is different. There are no alternatives so far except for oil and its derivatives or a return to the Middle Ages through the use of coal.
The only real beneficiaries of the Ukrainian crisis are the American hydraulic fracturing suppliers who earn €200m with every tanker they send to Europe. The Europeans can indeed fill their gas tanks, but at a great financial cost, which will be reflected directly in the industry and in the pocket of the European citizen before that, as it involves the middle class, which has to pay the difference in these prices.
The malicious goal behind all this is to transfer the centres of European industries to the US because the price of gas in Europe is currently eight times the price of gas in the US!
This is how Europe contributes to sacrificing itself for the US to maintain its status as a great power, even though it was the one that was suffering from stagnation and economic decline at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis.
* Hatem Sadek is a Professor at Helwan University