April 26, 2008
Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the European Union each year. The pledge cannot be taken seriously until there is a viable transport route to ship this amount to the EU.
EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner announced that the Turkmen president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov promised to ‘set aside’ this amount for EU buyers. It is not very easy to see how serious the offer is, since there are not viable transport route between Turkmenistan and the EU. Turkmenistan sells off most of its natural gas via Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly. Turkmenistan is hardly an independent seller from Russia, and the announced deal will hardly break down historically high natural gas prices in Europe. Small amount trade projects from Turkmenistan with liquid natural gas via trains and ships were not very encouraging in the past.
Ms. Ferrero-Waldner’s trip to Turkmenistan is another attempt to save the Nabucco pipeline that would bypass Russia and would leave for an alternative natural gas supply in the EU? However, the feasibility of that project is dubious. It would need a quick strategic agreement with Turkey which is getting less likely. It would be highly dependent on Iranian sales, and sales from Iran’s regional interest zone. Russia is competing hard with alternatives.? Nabucco will be bypassed by South Stream, Blue Stream like the North Stream between Germany and Russia.
Central Europe is depending on natural gas which is used for heating and also to generate electricity. Although the US and the official EU has been pressing for an alternative to the Russian-controlled gas pipelines, Russia has been a clever competitor: it signed bilateral agreements to build yet other alternatives to its existing gas infrastructure with almost all Central European countries, including Austria, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia. While Brussels is still pursuing a plan that has no solid internal and external political backing, at least eight EU members are signing energy realpolitik deals with Russia. Without a solid and shared foreign policy towards Russia, Iran and Turkey, and energy policy the European interest will suffer from the short-term solutions taken unilaterally by Member States.
Burning natural gas is the simplest form of pumping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and it also has a hefty price. The real alternative may be the nuclear option. “Nuclear energy makes an important contribution to our fight against climate change and our security of energy supply,” said energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs, while his collegue was busily trying to secure supplies of carbon-based fuel?
Author : Dániel Antal