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Why is Europe balking at a ban on Russian energy?

  • Published
    6th Apr, 2022
Context

Western sanctions so far have targeted Russian banks and companies but spared oil and gas payments — a U.S. concession to keep European allies on board and presents a united front.

About

Europe’s energy imports from Russia:

  • The European Union gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia, which is used to heat homes, generate electricity and supply industry with both energy and a key raw material for products such as fertilizer.
  • For oil, it’s about 25%, most of which goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles.
  • Russia supplies some 14% of diesel.
  • Of the 155 billion cubic meters of gas that Europe imports from Russia every year, 140 billion comes through pipelines crossing Ukraine, Poland and under the Baltic Sea.
  • Europe is scrambling to get additional supplies by ship in the form of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, but that can’t make up for losing gas by pipeline.
  • LNG is also much more expensive, and suppliers are maxed out.
    • While some European countries are well-connected to LNG terminals, such as Spain, and new projects are in the works in places like Greece and Poland, the infrastructure isn’t there to get supplies to the rest of Europe.
    • Building LNG import terminals and pipelines to connect the gas to places that need it can take years.

Why can’t Europe cut off Russian Energy like the US did?

  • The United States imported little oil and no natural gas from Russia as it’s become a major producer and exporter of oil and gas thanks to fracking. 
  • Europe had some oil and gas deposits, but production has been declining, leaving the 27-country EU dependent on imports.

What would happen if Europe banned Russian energy?

  • Estimates vary, but a cutoff implies a substantial hit to the European economy. A ban might mean governments would have to ration gas among companies to protect homes and hospitals.
  • Makers of metals, fertilizer, chemicals and glass would be hard hit. Even a partial shutoff of gas to industry could cost “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.
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