The president of United States, Joe Biden called on Qatar and its other allies in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa to help the European Union (EU) increase its natural gas reserves. in the face of the possibility that Russia will cut off the energy supply due to the crisis in Ukraine.
Biden will receive the Qatari emir, Tamim bin Hamad al Zani, at the White House on Mondaywith whom he will talk about how to guarantee the stability of global energy supplies, the White House reported this week.
The meeting is not accidental and comes after the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, will talk this week with the Emir of Qatar to express their desire to strengthen the energy alliance with that country, which they consider a “reliable partner”.
Nowadays, Qatar is the fourth largest supplier of natural gas to the EU with 5.2% of all purchases of this resourcebelow Algeria (8%), Norway (16%) and very far from Russia (41%), on whom the community block also depends for the supply of crude oil, according to Eurostat data from 2019.
Russian natural gas is essential for heating a large part of European homes in winteras well as for electricity generation and industrial production.
Fear that Russia will turn off the tap
Several European countries, and especially Germany, they fear that a conflict in Ukraine will paralyze the circulation of natural gas that passes through that country and, in addition, they believe that Russia could cut off other supply routes to Europe in case Washington and its allies impose sanctions.
A similar scenario occurred in 2006 and 2009 with the so-called “gas wars” in which disagreements between Russia and Ukraine –then the main passage for Russian gas – caused supply cuts in part of Europe.
These constant disagreements with Kiev made Moscow decided to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with the aim of bypassing Ukraine and transporting Russian gas directly to Germany on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Although the construction of Nord Stream 2 has ended, its future is uncertain because the certification process for it to start working is currently suspended and, in addition, a Russian aggression in Ukraine could cause some kind of retaliation against the project, as Washington, the EU and even Berlin have suggested.
The US tries to seduce the big gas producers
Faced with this situation, the Government of Biden revealed this week that he is in talks with the world’s major gas producers, including Qatar, to increase their gas exports to Europe. liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is cold-processed so that it can be transported in liquid form in tanks, instead of pipelines.
The US Administration has not identified the countries with which it is negotiating and has only said that they are located in Middle East, Asia and North Africa.
However, the list probably includes Saudi Arabia for its large reserves of natural gas, Norway because it already administers a large amount of gas to the EU and Australia, which has already offered to supply its European allies if Moscow turns off the tap.
Other possible options would be Libya, due to its proximity to Europe and Azerbaijan, which last October already showed its willingness to increase the supply of gas to southern and eastern Europe through a gas pipeline called Corredor Sur de Gas, inaugurated in December 2020.
The United States, which is already the largest supplier of LNG to the European Unionhas also made it clear that it is willing to speed up its exports.
Capacity for reactions in days or weeks
For Biden, the key is that all possible alternative sources to Russian gas are ready to supply the community bloc in a matter of “days” or in “a week or two” if Moscow cuts off the flow of power, US officials told reporters this week.
In this case, speed would be essential because the gas reserves of the EU countries, when the northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter, are especially low at a level of 40%compared to 53% just a year ago.
Washington expects the The mere threat of diversifying the sources of supply to Europe serves to intimidate Moscow because much of its economy depends on income from the sale of gas and crude oil.
In the background of all this geopolitical fight are the gas markets, which have experienced a significant rise in prices in recent monthswhich has affected the cost of energy for European consumers.
Only between 2019 and September 2021, the price of wholesale gas sales increased by 429% in Europewhile the retail price grew by 14%, according to data from the European Commission.
Beatriz Pascual Macías for EFE
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