Monday, 7 March 2011

Putin´s dream of controlling Europe´s energy future is over (2)

German Der Spiegel focuses on the coming shale gas revolution in Europe, which will put an end to Putin´s dream of controlling Europe´s energy future:

Bad news for Russia:
With each new project, more and more gas floods into the market, which is already saturated today, as evidenced by price trends in the United States. Almost every other commodity has become more expensive in the last year, while the price of natural gas has dropped by 27 percent. And the pricing pressure could continue if the gas supply keeps growing, says John Corben of the International Energy Agency in Paris. "It will help keep prices down."
This is bad news for Russia. The Kremlin derives a large share of its national budget from the exploitation of mineral resources. The Russians have invested billions in the infrastructure needed to develop key markets in Europe for the long term. That infrastructure includes the Nord Stream pipeline through the Baltic Sea, which is slated to go into operation later this year.
The final preparations are now underway at the construction site in Lubmin on Germany's Baltic Sea coast. This is where the pipes emerge from the waters of the Bay of Greifswald, marking the end of the two 1,224-kilometer (765-mile) pipelines that were installed on the sea floor using special ships. Just past the beach in Lubmin, workers are building giant valves, each as tall as a two-story building. The valves will regulate the flow of gas in the future. Nord Stream is expected to supply about 26 million households with electricity and heat.
But whether the investment will pay off is still unclear. The old calculations, from the days when the gas-oil price link was still fully applicable, are now obsolete. Even less clear is the outlook for the two other major European projects: South Stream, which will link Russia with Europe farther south, and, most of all, for Nabucco, the European Union alternative, which will transport gas from non-Russian suppliers and is intended to make Europe less dependent on Russia. Companies within the Nabucco consortium are already in exploratory talks with the EU, with the goal of bringing together segments of the Nabucco and South Stream projects, currently competitors.
Will Poland Become Next Norway?
In addition to changing worldwide energy markets, the emergence of new gas sources is leading to shifts in the global balance of power. Indeed, the dominant position of classic production countries, especially Russia, could soon erode strongly. Poland, on the other hand, could become a relevant player in the global market. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski already envisions transforming his country into the "next Norway" -- rich, important and independent -- particularly of its giant neighbor Russia.

Read the entire article here.

More information about shale gas in Europe here.
The Spiegel journalists are cautiously writing that "whether the investment will pay off is still unclear". Unless German and other European greens - with the support of Gazprom - succeed in seriously delaying the shale gas revolution in Europe, there is no uncertainty - the Nord Stream will never be a sound investment. This bad news for Russia is excellent news for consumers in Europe. And when the easy profits dry out in Russia, the end of the Putin era is in sight. THEN there will be an excellent chance of  building a real strategic partnership between the European Union and a new, more democratic Russia.

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