Leading article: An incentive to diversify

Share

The winter oil crisis between Russia and Belarus seems to be approaching a resolution. A delegation from Minsk has been dispatched to Moscow. And the European Union is to hold talks with both sides. A deal is likely to be reached, just as it was a year ago when a similar crisis broke out between Russia and Ukraine.

The immediate consequences are likely to be minimal. Oil supplies to central and eastern Europe have been interrupted since Moscow closed the Druzhba pipeline that runs through Belarus, but a relatively mild winter and significant stockpiles in Europe mean the shortfall is unlikely to cause much disruption. The International Energy Agency predicted yesterday that European oil markets will be able to cope for the time being.

But the longer-term consequences are less certain. Belarus has certainly behaved badly. It has used the European demand for Russian oil as a hostage in this row, in the knowledge that Moscow has more to lose in terms of international standing from the crisis. And former Russian satellites such as Belarus should indeed be paying something substantially closer to a market rate for their oil.

But Moscow has behaved worse. To the world, Russia seems to be throwing its weight around again. Why, we might ask, was there no advance notice for those European consumers further down the line before the pipeline was shut? Why does the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, refuse to sign the Energy Charter proposed by the European Union, which would guarantee security of supply? Confidence in the Kremlin is wearing thin. The feeling is growing in the West that Moscow is using energy as a "weapon" rather than merely a tradeable commodity.

Mr Putin must understand that it is not in Russia's interests to be seen as a fickle energy supplier. The Russian economy relies heavily on energy exports. And it needs foreign expertise to continue to develop oil and gas fields. At the moment, Russia supplies 30 per cent of Europe's oil and 40 per cent of its gas. But European customers will look to regions such as the Black Sea, the Caspian and the Gulf if they feel those supplies are insecure. Indeed, they are already doing so. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said yesterday that the events of the past week confirm the need for Europe to diversify its energy sources.

If the world's self-styled "energy superpower" fails to understand its obligations, Europe should seek other power sources as a matter of urgency. Indeed, it should seize this chance to diversify out of environmentally damaging hydrocarbon imports altogether. Russian authoritarianism and global warming provide a strong incentive for a change in direction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable