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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears