OIL, GAS AND BIG POLITICS
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with dr. Piotr Naimski about replacing tanks with pipelines, unspecified visions of the European ‘energetic union’ and particular Polish neglect
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – It has been obvious not only today that Russia is building its imperial power on the basis of gas and oil. Whereas Europe – and Poland – not earlier than at the moment of a real threat from Russia, it starts thinking on making other countries independent from Russian supplies of these resources. Why so late?
DR PIOTR NAIMSKI: – Better late than never. 25 years ago the governments of western countries announced that the cold war would end with the success of the West. In the West expenditures on defence were being cut with pleasure, whereas Russia was aiming at rebuilding its powerful status, using all possible practical tools for this purpose. First of all, it maintained income from the sale of crude oil and gas as the basic sources of financing of the Russian country. Moreover, Russia is successfully implementing the policy of making European countries dependent on the supply of gas and crude oil. In the West nobody has wanted to perceive it but neglected it, and tried to minimalize the danger for energetic safety, implementing an allegedly easier tactics of the exchange with Russia according to the rule: Moscow gives raw materials and big European countries pay and give an access to modern technologies, including the military ones.
– Although in the beginning of the 90s of the XX century, Kremlin started using an argument of ‘turning off a tap with oil and gas’ as a tool of a political blackmail….
– That is true, it was the first time in January 1992 when Russia had showed in practice that it was able to restrict gas supply to Poland for political reasons. In 2006 the Russians, being in a conflict with Ukraine, caused a crisis in supplies to Kiev and some receivers in EU. At that moment, for the first time countries of the West had seemed to experience disillusionment thanks to which they started look differently at the analysis coming from us, from Warsaw showing that being influenced by the Russian raw materials may be strategically very dangerous. The Russians did not conceal that export of crude oil and natural gas is treated by them as the so-called doctrine of Falin-Kwiciński, saying about replacing military tanks with oil pipelines and gas pipelines.
– What counteractions were suggested by Poland after the Ukrainian gas crisis in the year 2006?
– The government of the Law and Justice party was formulating projects of cooperation in the European forum. One of our propositions was creating a mechanism of crisis reacting in case of disruptions in gas supply to any of participants of this agreement. At that moment it met with skepticism, and there were attempts in Berlin to explain us that the ‘market’ will elaborate the best solutions itself, that it is impossible to mix politics with economy, and in Paris there was discontent with the proposition of cooperation with the USA in this field. Only the crisis in the year 2009, which was dramatic for Bulgaria, difficult for Slovakia and Poland and felt even in distanced Great Britain, started works of the European Commission and caused more serious attitude towards the problems of energetic safety in many member countries of EU.
– What was the more serious attitude based on?
– In EU it is believed that the idea suggested by the government of the Law and Justice party in 2006, about building cross-border intersystem connections which would make it possible for mutual help in case of supply crisis. It concerned a possibility of supplies of these connections to both sides and treating them in a noncommercial way. The breakthrough was one of EU documents in which it was written that building intersystem connections does not have to be fully justified economically and cannot result from care about supply safety.
– So, the superiority of energetic safety over economy was acknowledged!
– Yes, although it was written in very small print in long documents of the European Commission….
– What mechanisms have been elaborated so far in order to guarantee energetic safety of Europe in respect to the uncertainty of the Russian supplies?
– The so-called third energetic packet seems the most important – which assumes among the others, that an owner of gas pipelines and an owner of gas cannot manage the gas pipeline. In Poland the big Yamal gas pipeline is the property of the Polish-Russian company EuRoPol GAZ (unfortunately, with the actual domineering position of Gazprom), but an operator of this gas pipeline from 2011 is the Polish Gas-System, the company of the State Treasury, which manages all transmission gas pipelines in Poland. Thanks to it we can use the ‘virtual’ reverse on the Yamal gas pipeline.
– What does ‘in reality’ mean?
– Nearly 30 milliard m3 of gas flows through the Yamal gas pipeline through Poland to western receivers. If needed, we can buy some gas, for example, from the Germans and take it from this gas pipeline in Polish reception places, that is, in Włocławek and Lwowek. In total, it will be maximum 5.5 milliard m3 from these two points, because of restricted technical possibilities.
– So, a possibility of such a ‘virtual’ reverse of the Russian gas for the West does not solve the problem of the Polish society?
– Today there is no possibility of full replacement of supplies from Russia in the case of their complete disruption. Gaz-System is planning to start a possibility of physical reverse of gas in the Yamal gas pipeline from this April. However,it will still be only 5.5 milliard m3 because of the lack of possibility of taking more amount in Włocławek and Lwowek. At present we buy from Russia about 10 milliard m3 , that is, Polish recipients would still lack other 5 milliard. In 2009 we owed a possibility of replacing stopped supplies from Ukraine by increased supplies from Belarus only to the Russians of good will.
– At present we hope that there will be common European solutions in the sphere of energetic safety…
– Firstly, we must remember that the governments of member countries are responsible for energetic safety in EU. Neither the European Parliament nor the European Commission, nor the European Union Council, nor the European Council are responsible for it. So, these are the governments which must have suitable tools in order to fulfill the duty. These are member countries which must make decisions independently about preferred energy sources, they must accept acts and regulations stipulating the surroundings for energetic and extraction sectors functioning on market rules and ventures connected with them. We must expect the EU to think over and revise those policies which directly or indirectly inhibit their own and cheap production of energy in Europe. Administrative restriction of carbon dioxide emission or multiplying gas extraction from shale gas deposits strengthens dependence on importing gas and oil. In Europe there are shale gas deposits and also coal neglected at present.
– What should the European ‘energetic solidarity’ be like today, so that it would be really beneficial for such countries as Poland?
– We can expect solidarity in the cases of crisis. Probably it will require detailed agreements defining its range and technical conditions. Donald Tusk has been publicly submitting the project of ‘making gas purchases common in EU’ for a few days. It allegedly sounds not bad but in practice it would mean for Poland that German companies will sign contracts with Gazprom, without considering us, and will make Russian gas available to Poland on conditions agreed between Berlin and Moscow, well, maybe with the minority participation of Paris…It is not the way to independence of Poland in the sphere of supplies of raw materials and energy. It seems that the expression of this solidarity in the ‘normal’ times could be reflection on the level of EU rules of public help for energetic and extraction sectors. At present provisions restrict such possibilities very generally, but it concerns companies and investments of fundamental significance for energetic safety and for safety – written with capital letter ‘S’! – of the country.
– In Europe there are discussions on various scenarios of more dependence on ‘political’ Russian energetic raw materials. How realistic are today’s hopes of Europe for import of cheap American shale gas?
– Certainly it is a kind of strategic perspective for Europe. When the American Congress agrees on export of this gas to particular European countries, it will open a way to build an alternative for the whole EU, where 30 per cent of gas comes from the Russian Federation now. If there was a possibility of more supplies from other directions, it would decrease the price of the Russian gas for Europe. Technically speaking, in the case of making a decision about export to Europe, the Americans can start supplies in the second half of 2015.
– To what extent can this new strategy of the European energetic safety curb the Russian imperial aspirations – if it is implemented one day, and if the cheap American gas goes to Europe?
– It is obvious that the main income source of the Russian country is the sale of oil and gas. Depriving Russia of this income or restricting it, may cause a necessity of a long suspension of plans of the Russian empire integration. We have already dealt with this situation in the 80s of the last century, when because of the active thought out policy of the United States the price of crude oil on world markets was decreased to such an extent that the Russian export stopped bringing expected income and the Russians had to restrict their expenditures, connected, among the others, with armaments. So, theoretically, it can be an effective tool.
– Today Poland is not a country energetically safe, because it is dependent on the Russian oil and gas. But there have been many discussions in our country about the necessity of diversification of supplies of these raw materials…
– There were also discussions that safety of the country does not depend on it…However, although some actions were taken, for example, to build the Polish gas port in Świnoujście…..we do not have it yet. If the original schedule of 2007 prepared by the government of the Law and Justice party was implemented, then in the end of December 2012 the gas port might be active. The government of Tusk blocked works for nearly half a year and accepted a different schedule, according to which investment was to be ready in the mid of 2014. It is obvious that it will not. Experts and managers speak about the years 2015 today. Whereas for our safety, every month of delay is dangerous, similarly as defects with building of this installation can be dangerous.
– It seems that the Polish government is very scared of the current situation – let’s hope that it will want make up for the lost time….
– It would be good if this crisis fruited with permanent decisions and particular steps. Even if in the perspective of weeks and months it is not possible to improve much, it would turn out that completing this investment in Świnoujście will be acknowledged by the Civic Platform as an extremely important matter, that building new gas pipelines will be accelerated, that all investments connected with energetic safety will proceed faster than it is envisaged by normal Polish procedures. It would be necessary to make building of new power plants more effective and quicker. The whole packet concerning energetic safety and supply with strategic raw materials of the Polish economy should be treated in a new way.
– What way?
– Instead of making up nonspecific visions of the ‘energetic union’, the prime minister Tusk should concentrate on liquidating dangers for important investments in Poland. Delays in Świnoujście, constant lack of governmental project of the ‘shale’ act, so much needed for acceleration of building this new industry, lack of the reaction of the government to stopping building a power plant in Ostrołęka, etc. The government of the Civic Platform can show his possibilities by liquidating 7-year-old neglect which weakens energetic safety of Poland.
– Should there be a place for ‘old’ coal in the Polish safety packet treated in a new way?
– In no way should we resign from using coal, although we have to think seriously about sanitation of the Polish coal energetics and mining in the Silesia. We should think seriously about extracting gas and crude oil from the Polish shale. We should have a conscious attitude towards all issues connected with energetic safety and consider all possible dangers according to the Polish raison d’etat. And it was the beginning of a serious discussion about the state of the Polish army, and it is also necessary to discuss seriously the state of energetic safety.