Counter Balance submission to Public consultation on the external dimension of the EU energy policy

Counter Balance contributed to the public consultation on the external dimension of the EU energy policy with a brief paper: Energy Security Or Energy Grab? The European Commission’s View of Our Energy Future, and What it Means for People, Politics and the Planet.

Executive Summary

Though it touches on energy efficiency and renewable sources, the main thrust of the EC’s “energy security” agenda is the mass importation of mainly fossil fuel energy to the EU. We believe that only by reducing our energy consumption, not finding new ways to sustain the unsustainable, can we stabilise climate change and achieve real security in our societies. The EC’s proposals to build a series of colossal oil, gas, electricity and solar projects in faraway countries appear to us to be not energy security but a huge European energy grab across half the globe.

The EC’s energy security plan essentially means diversity of supply to counter Russian threats; it does not address the deeper causes of energy ‘insecurity’. As such, it can only provide a false security, for three reasons. The first is it would create a new raft of interests and investments in poor regions, to be supported politically and even militarily, often at the expense of local communities and their development. Secondly, the EC model perpetuates the real source of energy ‘insecurity’: the high-carbon, high-consumption economic model that constantly demands more energy imports. Most of all, in fueling this carbon-intensive system of consumption, it guts ongoing efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and has catastrophic implications for climate change.

This briefing first summarises recent EC energy briefings, showing how an initial emphasis on climate change and sustainability has been replaced by a narrow economistic focus on energy supply and the creation of energy markets. It then runs through a series of multi-billion dollar energy megaprojects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Trans-Sahara, Medgaz and Nabucco gas pipelines, the Grand Inga hydroelectric dam and the Desertec solar power project, that together constitute the hardware of what the EC regards as energy security investments and we call the energy grab. We analyse the mechanics, funding and problems these megaprojects have encountered, as well as their likely economic and social impacts.

The briefing then touches on some of the assumptions behind the EC’s energy paradigm that perhaps do not get debated sufficiently. They include the concept of security and the effects the language of security has on politics; the efficacy of decarbonisation measures like Carbon Capture and Sequestration and carbon trading; and the limitations of supply side energy efficiency measures.

We conclude that these megaprojects share unwelcome characteristics of impossible expense, impracticable size and lack of benefit to local people, and so can only be described as a European energy grab. Moreover, because they will create new geo-political and military pressures, conflict with other power blocs and massively worsen Europe’s impact on climate change, these projects will fail to give Europe greater energy security.

The full submission is available here

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