US chases energy fantasies while EU seeks supply

Bob Tippee

Europe and the US share concern about security of energy supply. The similarity mostly ends there.

Europe has been rattled by Russia's willingness to curb deliveries of natural gas in apparent attempts to advance its political goals.

It matters little to Europe that Russia's direct targets so far have been adjacent, non-European neighbors that—depending on who's interpreting events—Moscow was trying to bring to heel or simply dunning for overdue accounts.

None of that should matter to Europe. Gas not delivered on schedule during winter is gas not delivered, whatever the reason.

In plenty of other ways lately, Russia has been behaving like the bully it used to be. Europe has reason to worry.

So the European Union is looking elsewhere for energy supply.

Through its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), for example, the EU is trying to strengthen ties with bordering countries to the east and along the non-European Mediterranean coast. That energy cooperation is central to the effort is no secret.

The logic is straightforward. Europe needs more energy than its constituent countries can produce. So it goes looking for new supply.

The US needs more energy than it can produce, too. But instead of looking for more supply it cuddles itself into fantasies about conservation and alternative energy.

Unlike Europe, the US could produce more energy than it does inside its borders—off the East and West Coasts, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, in Alaska. It just won't.

In energy-fretful Europe, this must look foolish. It is.

Europe kisses the alternative-energy ring, too, of course. EU communications about the ENP coo about neighboring countries' commitment to solar, wind, and biofuels.

Yet energy from all those sources combined in the target neighbors wouldn't displace meaningful amounts of the gas Europe imports from Russia.

The neighborhood in question includes Azerbaijan Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria—none of which, at last report, was a major exporter wind or solar-driven electrical power or of biofuels. The EU needs and wants oil and gas, and its political varnish about alternatives fools no one.

Except, maybe, wishful thinkers in the US.

(Online Sept. 14, 2007; author's e-mail:

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