There are few energy projects in the world as controversial as Nord Stream 2, and on Tuesday they all died in the country as Germany’s leader. halted its approval process.
The statement of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is the most specific response from the West towards Russia military action in eastern Ukraine. But it puts Europe in an uncomfortable position – Russia could simply shut off the other gas faucets that power most of the continent and leave millions in darkness and cold.
Fears that Russia will use Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical weapon to advance its interests – and expansionism – in Europe are well-founded. But arming with gas would actually weaken Europe’s position even further.
Whether or not Germany officially scraps Nord Stream 2, Russia’s actions in Ukraine make the project politically impossible.
The pipeline has run into political problems. The 1,230-kilometer pipeline is believed to transport a large amount of Russian gas to Europe via Germany, and although it has been there, under construction for more than five months, not a single shipment has passed through it. .
Germany’s new coalition government with a strong Green presence opposes a growing reliance on natural gas – a fossil fuel currently contributing more greenhouse gas emissions in the EU than coalso it has become dependent on what is supposed to be a fuel to convert to renewable energy.
Nord Stream 2 has been set to add 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, not to mention the inevitable leak of methane, a greenhouse gas with the power to warm the planet 80 times more than CO2 in a short time.
Now, Europe – especially Germany – has the opportunity to take advantage of this moment to move away from Nord Stream 2 not only but also its growing dependence on fossil gas.
Germany is one of the few developed nations that opposes nuclear power and is in the process of shutting down some of its reactors. Without it, it would need a radical rethink to speed up energy production from renewables. And considering the environmental concerns surrounding nuclear energy’s disposal of radioactive waste, its role in the future energy mix also has limitations. The rapid scaling up of renewables – solar, wind and hydro – provides both energy security and climate protection. Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables would be an easy first step.
In the short term, Europe could scramble for gas from other nations – not enough to displace Russia, but perhaps enough to get through – and deal with Russia’s immediate threat.
But the perennial problem of the climate crisis will continue to stir and will ultimately be far more dangerous and costly than the possibility of a military confrontation.