A fight for energy

Bogusław Kowalski

The winter time reminds us of the importance of energy and its costs. Individual owners of houses and flats are painfully convinced about it as pay higher bills for heating every year. Enterprises are also touched by this, when they must include higher positions in the costs of their production or done services because of that. Because of that in winter we pay a special attention to providing ourselves with energy. But in reality it is a constant problem. The costs of gaining the energy decide not only about the standard of living but competitiveness of permanent economies. Therefore, the fight for permanent and possibly cheap energy sources is an open or concealed reason for most conflicts which are happening in the world.

A Russian game of gas

For a few years we have been witnesses of new-year ‘wars’ between Moscow and its neighbours about supplies of gas. Taking advantage of increased need for gas existing at the beginning of winter, Russia was trying to enforce high prices of gas and control on its transit to Europe, especially from the former Soviet republics. Although it did not come to these spectacular events, like suspension of supplies and turning off the gas main, tensions are still appearing. The new situation was created by the opening of the North Gas Piping and supplying the gas to Germany directly from Russia through a pipe on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Finally, it broke the resistance of Belarus which, by bargaining lower prices for gas, returned a complete control over the network of gas pipes on its area, including the pipelines reaching to Poland and Germany.

On the battlefield there is only Ukraine. The tension between Kiev and Moscow because of the rules of gas supplies increased in the beginning of the year 2012. Russian and Ukrainian negotiations carried out for many months on the change of gas contracts of 2009 do not bring any effects. The main reason is mainly far-reaching demands from Russia which wants to take over control over the Ukrainian gas monopolist Naftohaz. The authorities in Kiev are ready to agree on creating the consortium dealing with the transit of Russian gas to Europe but they definitely reject the possibility of returning the control over the inner gas market. The mild course of the first winter weeks caused the decrease in need for gas. Therefore, the Ukrainian government wants to decrease the purchase from 33 mld m3 to 27 mld m3 every year. It also demands lowering a very high price which is about 416 dollars per 1 thousand m3 at present. For comparison - it must be paid about 150 dollars for this amount of earth gas on the American market.

Gazprom rejects these postulates and demands the payment for the whole supply agreed in the contract. The political tension between the both countries is growing and starts spreading into other spheres of economic cooperation. Here the Russian services of sanitary supervision announced increased controls and a possibility of introducing restrictions on the import of Ukrainian cheeses. In reply, the Ukrainian side has questioned the quality of the Russian meat. But Moscow did not remain without revenge and during lowering the gas price by 10-15 % for some Western recipients, including the German consortium Wingas and French GDF Suez, it omitted Ukraine and Poland.

Environment protection versus shale gas

There is also growing political tension about the extraction of shale gas in Europe. In the mid January the parliament of Bulgaria prohibited searching and exploitation of gas deposits and petroleum from shale rocks. The prohibition concerns also the Bulgarian part of the Black Sea. The Bulgarian authorities have spoken about great hopes connected with searching shale gas till now. Its supplies were estimated even for 1 bln m3 which would satisfy the needs of this country for the next 100 years. However, in recent times, there was a wave of protests against shale gas throughout Bulgaria and the authorities changed its policy. For, it is about the fact that in the fracturing method which is the only way of the extraction of gas from shale, the mixture of water and sand is used. About 1% of this substance there are chemicals which – according to ecologists – can lead to water contamination in the area of extraction.

For these reasons and in similar circumstances, searching of shale gas was stopped in France. The government started introducing concessions but after demonstrations among ecologists, the parliament of France, from the initiative of the governing party, was the first in the world to give a prohibition of using the fracturing method. It was also done by: Land of Rhineland North Westphalia in Germany, New York in USA and Quebec province in Canada.

In this situation of Sofia, there will remain participation in building gas piping South Stream which is an analogical solution like the Northern Gas Piping. Gazprom wants to set up a new gas piping together with companies from Italy, France and Germany through the Black Sea of Russia to Bulgaria; the gas piping would be supposed to deprive Ukraine of an advantage from the transit. Therefore, the government of Sofia acknowledged the South Stream as investment of the priority significance. In Poland also the movement of Palikot announced submission of a project of the act prohibiting the extraction of shale gas by the fracturing method. There is only the question: is it about the authentic care for clean environment or blocking a possibility of gaining a cheaper raw material?


"Niedziela" 06/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl