The Wall Street Journal blog titled Real Time Brussels has posted an article titled Natural Gas: Europe’s Destiny that is well worth reading if you want a better understanding of the economic and political forces that are working to change the energy landscape in Europe.
The piece compares natural gas against other available options and finds those options to be inferior. The author thus concludes that the future will be one with natural gas combustion supplying a larger portion of the power. Here is how the author – Alessandro Torello – dismisses nuclear energy as a technology that might interfere with this destiny.
Nuclear, which emits practically no CO2 in electricity production, is an important part of the energy mix in some countries. But there’s strong resistance in a lot of places, such as Germany, to building new plant and in any case building new nuclear power stations takes a lot of time.
Enter natural gas.
Mr. Torello has overlooked the possible cause and effect relationship between the political and economic strength of the opposition to nuclear energy and the promotion of natural gas as an energy alternative.
It is surprising that Torello does not see the political angle of an increased dependence on natural gas – he has contributed to several articles in the past month describing how Russia uses its control of large gas resources as a political weapon. (See, for example: Russia Reduces Gas Supplies to Belarus and Russia Further Reduces Gas Supplies to Belarus.)
It is also surprising that Torello does not mention the economic linkage between slowing down nuclear energy and selling more gas, especially since he quotes two sources from the natural gas industry as being pleased with the positioning of natural gas as the major source of fuel in a future where people are concerned about air pollution.
A Royal Dutch Shell official recently called natural gas a “destination” fuel for Europe, rather than a transition to other energy sources. This because there are reserves to last roughly 250 years, with most fields not farther than 4,500 kilometers from Brussels–a perfectly viable distance for pipelines.
Alexander Medvedev, Russia’s Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive, also points out that Europe could achieve almost half of its CO2-reduction targets by turning old polluting plants into gas.
How can any business reporter fail to mention the fact that both Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom will be huge winners if Europeans decide that they will burn even more natural gas instead of building new nuclear power plants while keeping the ones that they already have in operation for their full useful lives?