Senior Counsel, Fellow, Global Natural Gas and Energy Transitions
Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies
Can Energy Security and Climate Goals Coexist?
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has triggered a re-examination of European, and indeed, worldwide energy priorities. While no one questions the need for ambitious progress towards a dramatically lower carbon economy, immediate concerns about energy security compete for attention in both the short and medium term. The EU has published a 10-Point Plan to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas by 2/3 by year-end, and Russia has countered with threats to terminate supplies completely. But from where will Europe get its replacement energy? Many of the proposals in the 10-Point Plan (including large scale renewable as well as fossil fuel and nuclear projects) will take many years to implement. One renewables expert recently estimated it would take 7-8 years to permit a large new wind project in Europe. Even Germany's two announced new LNG terminals will take at least 2 years to build. Some commentators -- even environmental advocates -- suggest turning back to burning more coal until these projects are completed. LNG is one option, of course. But its supply is currently constrained. Every cargo diverted to Europe is coming from somewhere else -- often Asia. It is therefore not surprising that Japan is also discussing the possibility of contracting for coal and China is using more coal. Must energy security be a zero sum game where the climate and the future must lose?
The author has examined these and related issues and has concluded that both goals can be pursued simultaneously. For example, Europe can insist that LNG suppliers meet the "30% Methane Reduction Pledge" agreed by the US, UK and EU in Glasgow. On the other hand, those same three governments may want to consider relaxing their prohibition against financing foreign LNG export projects that would grow the pool of LNG and reduce the need for more coal. Other steps, such as promoting floating LNG storage and regas vessels near Lubmin, Groningen and other gas hubs in Europe would offer flexibility for short-term energy solutions that offer energy security while not locking Europe into long-term infrastructure that may not accord with the EU's Carbon Taxonomy.
The author will bring a unique perspective to this important issue in having spent three years analyzing both low-carbon solutions for natural gas and LNG as a Fellow for Global Natural Gas & Energy Transitions at the Baker Institute at Rice University, and prior to that spending 35 years as an attorney working on over 100 LNG and natural gas projects around the world.