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 QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week