Abigail Doan

Gazprom Crisis Engulfs Europe

by , 01/09/09
filed under: Renewable Energy

Gazprom crisis, Russian Ukraine gas dispute, Gazprom gas crisis in Europe, Gas crisis EU, Central Eastern Europe gas crisis, gas crisis Bulgaria, gas cut-off Europe, gas cut-off Bulgaria, Gazprom negotiations EU, EU gas crisis, energy crisis Europe

Home heating price increases have certainly been a major concern for recession-strapped households in northern climates, but the possibility of having one’s heat completely shut-off in this new era of natural resource ‘muscle flexing’ and bitter political show-downs is perhaps a whole new energy policy boiling point in Europe and beyond. Russia’s decision this week to turn off the flow of gas from its Gazprom pipelines to the Ukraine, which in turn forced many European countries to rely on their (in some cases virtually nonexistent) gas reserves, demonstrates the dire need to identify alternatives to Siberia and the Middle East for our massive oil and gas dependencies. Given that my family and I are currently in Bulgaria for six weeks, we are experiencing the Gazprom gas cut-off crisis first-hand. This issue will not be going away any time soon, despite the band-aid patches that will crop up over the next few weeks and months.

Gazprom crisis, Russian Ukraine gas dispute, Gazprom gas crisis in Europe, Gas crisis EU, Central Eastern Europe gas crisis, gas crisis Bulgaria, gas cut-off Europe, gas cut-off Bulgaria, Gazprom negotiations EU, EU gas crisis, energy crisis Europe

Media sources from around the globe began reporting earlier this week that exports of Russian gas via Gazprom had ceased to flow from Russia to the Ukraine. Central and Eastern Europe were worst hit as the bitter cold shuddered in the New Year with temperatures plunging to -10 C or lower in some regions. Heating systems were shut down as regional officials grappled with how to allocate whatever reserves, if any, they had – does one prioritize the elderly, the very young, schools, hospitals? According to reports from the BBC, “the EU says it wants its own monitors to check the flow of gas. The EU depends on Russia for a quarter of its gas supplies, some 80% of which is pumped through Ukraine. The countries that have reported a total halt of Russian supplies via Ukraine included Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, and Austria. Italy said it had received only 10% of its expected supply.”

Gazprom crisis, Russian Ukraine gas dispute, Gazprom gas crisis in Europe, Gas crisis EU, Central Eastern Europe gas crisis, gas crisis Bulgaria, gas cut-off Europe, gas cut-off Bulgaria, Gazprom negotiations EU, EU gas crisis, energy crisis Europe photography by Abigail Doan

Here in Bulgaria the situation is particularly dire as gas reserves can be measured in days alone. Cities outside of Sofia have been more drastically affected, although family members of ours living in the capital’s Soviet-style blocs were trying to manage in freezing cold temperatures without any heat or hot water. Given that centralized heating is the norm for these communities, every household is affected when a shut down occurs.

Politics and not just economics are to blame for the finger pointing that is occurring back and forth across the border between the Ukraine and Russia, as each accuses the other for the cut-off in supply. Many view this crisis as a case of Russia’s Gazprom and the Ukraine’s Naftogaz taking the EU’s gas supply “hostage”. This is perhaps the 21st Century’s first glimpse into how future wars may be fought.

Given that shut-offs like this typically affect economically disadvantaged communities in a country like Bulgaria, it is disconcerting to observe how limited supplies are siphoned away from poorer to wealthier communities that can afford to pay higher gas prices.

This begs one to ask whether we have entered a whole new era of wartime preparedness, where citizens anticipate energy blockades as they go about their daily lives – particularly as we struggle globally to define viable sustainable energy plans.

We welcome your comments and input.

Gazprom crisis, Russian Ukraine gas dispute, Gazprom gas crisis in Europe, Gas crisis EU, Central Eastern Europe gas crisis, gas crisis Bulgaria, gas cut-off Europe, gas cut-off Bulgaria, Gazprom negotiations EU, EU gas crisis, energy crisis Europe

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8 Comments

  1. Abigail Doan Abigail Doan January 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Dear ” cheehai”

    Thanks for writing. I am very aware of the issues related to the transit of gas between Russia and the Ukraine, and again, this article was not one of finger-pointing but of providing an opportunity to discuss how to avoid this sort of crisis in the future. You need not critique Inhabitat about “getting it right”, as all of our writers dig deep (beyond mainstream media) to find factual information for our stories and posts.

    Sadly, this is not an issue that it just going to go away with improvements in “transit” or economic patches. This will be a problem of supply in the future and one of haves and have-nots.

    Best wishes,

    Abigail

  2. cheehai January 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    You do realize that when Russia pumped gas trough the pipeline after the draft on EU observers at pumping stations was signed that Ukraine blocked Gas flow. And it was Ukraine who cut off gas delivery to europe, bailing on its transit contract.

    Its not a problem of supply, but a problem of Transit and its really bellow this site to not get its facts straight and rely on mainstream media…

    Russia didn’t stop delivering, Ukraine stopped transit and its about time you guys get it right.

    If Russia did not stop delivery to Ukraine then Eastern Europe would still not get any gas…

  3. PaTrond PaTrond January 12, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    UK imports more or less all their gas from Norway. So does Netherland, Belgium and parts of France and Germany too.

    But norwegian habitants uses only a microscopic part from their gas and oil production because they import nuclear power from Sweden(and opposite in summer or other seasons where there have been raining enough) when there is not enough water in waterfalls and lakes to produce power from that. 70%+ of Norway’s power comes from own production by wind or water energy.

    Unfortunately the government is stupid enough to adore the gass produced in Norway. They’ve made two new gas-powerplants since 2000.

  4. Abigail Doan Abigail Doan January 10, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Thanks everyone for your concern and input. Again, my goal overall was the desire to highlight the need for self-sufficiency and sustainable energy plans for all nations – however wishful this may seem right now.

    As a mother of two babies who are 15 months of age, it has also been an eye-opener to read/hear first hand accounts of local families, particularly those with small infants, trying to combat the cold.

    Just a reminder that we still have so far to go in terms of making the planet a better, more ‘secure’ home/land for the next generation: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5484939.ece

  5. treythefarmer January 9, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Abigail, I agree completely. If this really highlights the “homeland defense” arguments for a self sufficient energy system in the US. Regardless of the global warming debate (just watch some Lou Dobbs videos on youtube if you want to get really frustrated), living in total dependance on China and the Middle East is pretty scary. Thanks for the article.

  6. bamboobuddha bamboobuddha January 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    amedia,

    its not about who stole what gas or who did what, its about people suffering in the harsh cold.. think about all those families!!

  7. Abigail Doan Abigail Doan January 9, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Dear “amedia”:

    The post itself is not intended to be a political one or a side-taking stance between Russia and the Ukraine. My intention was primarily to highlight the current crisis and the future issues at hand.

  8. amedia January 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Gazprom didn’t just turn the gas off, Ukraine stole a whole bunch of delivery first. If you say something political, be at least correct.

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