by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Europe’s aggressive leap towards “green” energy is proving to be a grave mistake.
As Europe braces for war on its eastern borders, the continent’s shift from cheap, reliable energy in the form of coal and nuclear to wind and solar has left millions, already struggling with a low-wind winter, dependent on Russian natural gas to meet baseload power needs.
After decades of transition, Europe now gets more than 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, making the continent far more susceptible to interruptions ordered by President Vladimir Putin as he prepares a takeover of Ukraine. And it’s not just gas. Russia is the dominant supplier of Europe’s oil and solid fuels, providing 27 and 47 percent respectively, according to the EU.
European dependence on Russian energy supplies was entirely self-inflicted. More than half a dozen European countries banned fracking over the last decade, and the Kremlin has kept reserves low after the continent knee-capped its own domestic production.
Germany is most dependent on Russian gas to compensate for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The nation continues to phase out coal and nuclear despite importing more than 70 percent of its energy supplies. The last German nuclear plants are scheduled to shut down by the end of the year, and its remaining coal plants abandoned by 2038.
“They’ve reduced the options or the bandwidth that European countries have available to them,” said Katie Tubb, a senior policy analyst for energy and environmental issues at the conservative Heritage Foundation, on Europe facing potential cutoffs. “I don’t think there is a rapid solution here in part because the EU has been going down this road currently for decades now.”