Attempts by Western governments to transition away from hydrocarbons is creating instability, according to a new policy paper from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) evaluating efforts by North America and Europe to curtail fossil fuel use through decarbonization.
“It has become apparent that energy transition policies in Canada and the US are ultimately working to undermine economic, energy, and national security in North America,” write authors Jack Mintz and Ron Wallace in “The Global Energy Transition Confronts East vs. West Realpolitik: Why Energy Security Matters.”
Some of the consequences of the Wests divestment in hydrocarbons cited by the report are market instabilities, power interruptions, and continued rising costs. Meanwhile, foreign producers are benefiting, particularly in the case of Russia and the war it’s waging against Ukraine.
“It is becoming abundantly clear that such policies, as practised in Germany to achieve climate-driven objectives for net zero carbon emissions, has delivered European energy security into the hands of Russia,” it says.
The authors argue that energy must be understood as a core strategic issue beyond climate considerations, with Russia creating an impetus to re-evaluate current policies.
German Economy Minister Robert Habecksaid said last month that his country has “maneuvered ourselves into an ever-greater dependency on fossil energy imports from Russia in the last 20 years,” reported The Associated Press.
“That is not a good state of affairs.”
Despite its pursuit of aggressive climate policies, Germany was in the process of increasing its dependence on Russian energy with the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have doubled Russian gas exports to Germany.
The 1,234 km offshore pipeline is ready for use but Germany has not certified it in light of recent geopolitical developments, and it is now essentially abandoned.
To meet its energy needs, Germany plans to not only speed up the expansion of renewable sources, but also build a liquid natural gas terminal as quickly as possible while reconsidering the suspension of the planned shutdown of coal-fired power plants.
It’s not only European countries whose independence and security are threatened by an over-reliance on foreign energy sources. The American military plays a major role in continental and world security, and the MLI paper documents the staggering amount of fuel it takes to do so.
The U.S. Department of Defence is one of the single largest global consumers of hydrocarbons. According to 2005 CIA World Factbook data, if the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 34th in average daily oil use.
The U.S. Air Force uses 10 percent of America’s supply of aviation fuel making it the U.S. government’s largest fuel consumer.
“Given just how deeply the US military establishment is woven around fossil fuel use, how do policies by successive US administrations to reduce dependence on fossil fuels affect not just North American energy security but their military capabilities? Could it not be argued, therefore, that any policies to significantly reduce hydrocarbon production is militarily and politically destabilizing?” the authors ask.
At the same time that the Biden administration has been taking action to stymie hydrocarbon transportation and development in North America, it’s been pleading with foreign producers to increase output.
“These contradictory policies provide examples of the complexities and difficulties that will be involved in the attainment of net zero emissions from hydrocarbons – and not just for the US and Canadian economies, but globally,” the paper says.
In contrast to the path taken by the West on climate policy, China and Russia understand the “long-term energy game” and are “aggressively developing their access to fossil fuels resources.”
“If the West chooses to kneecap itself with a mismanaged transition process leading to high energy prices and large economic costs, China will be able to advance ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative and economic investments throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and thereby continue to increase its economic influence,” the paper warns.
China is already a major player in resources and products for the green economy. Its expansion into new markets will force the West to become dependent on foreign sources not only for hydrocarbons but for alternative energy as well, which will “further boost global energy insecurity.”
Mintz and Wallace conclude that “North America and the European Union are experiencing the consequences of misguided energy policies that have undermined efforts to sustain energy security in the West.”
“At a critical time when North American energy could be backfilling against sanctioned Russian oil and gas, Canada has limited additional supply available for export with inadequate infrastructure that limits options for potential exports,” they write.