On Wednesday, Hungary demanded that shipments of Russian oil be exempt from the European Union’s proposed sanctions. This statement comes amidst tense negotiations between Budapest and Brussels over the EU’s sixth round of penalties against Moscow. Budapest has proven the most skeptical of the plan, which requires the unanimous consent of member states.
High energy prices in the UK have led to the worst cost-of-living increases in decades— with economists warning inflation could breach 10% this year. Households faced a record energy bill spike of 54% at the beginning of April and are set to rise again in October.
During President Joe Biden's visit to Europe, the US has struck a deal with the EU to boost its liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply as the trade bloc seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. The war in Ukraine highlighted the Old Continent's unsustainable Russian energy habit.
Tensions between Russia and the West over a possible invasion of Ukraine have reached their zenith. If a shooting war between the two ex-Soviet states does erupt, it will likely happen within the next 72 hours, or not at all (this does not preclude the possibility of limited border incursions by Russian troops or perhaps the formal recognition of Ukraine’s breakaway provinces ).
As the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grows ever more likely, Berlin’s hesitancy to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and other pressure points, such as SWIFT bank transfer system, erodes deterrence, and may invite Russian aggression.
The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is occurring apace; sales in Europe are accelerating thanks to early adopter enthusiasm and government subsidies - given the shift in government and EU-wide cleaner energy initiatives. According to Schmidt Automotive, battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales will reach a market share of 60% in Western Europe by 2030, or 8.4 million vehicles – a paradigm shift on the continent where the internal combustion engine (ICE) was invented over 160 years ago.
A new European Union (EU) proposal to treat new nuclear power and natural gas investments as “green” is sparking controversy over the taxonomy of sustainable energy, provoking a clash between Paris and Berlin.
Nord Stream 2 (NS2), Europe’s most contentious infrastructure project, seems to have survived the Putin-Biden teleconference and is likely to be approved by the German regulator. This outcome may be the purpose of the recent Russian troop mobilization. Europe’s and Germany’s dependence on Russian gas deepens and may appear irreversible, with long-term geo-strategic consequences the U.S. leaders and planners should take into account. Yet, Russia’s clash with the West would incur very high costs on the Kremlin.
Russia is escalating pressure on Ukraine, threatening to drag the U.S. and NATO into their worst confrontation with Moscow since the Cold War. A devastating combination of external and internal threats now imperil Ukraine's security, with energy playing a key part.
The United States recently reaffirmed its intent to support Ukrainian energy security amidst the near-certain completion of Nord Stream 2 (NS2) – Russia’s controversial pipeline, which will pump 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas into Germany while increasing Europe’s dependence on Gazprom and entirely circumventing Ukraine. The $11bn project was completed in September and is now awaiting final approval from German regulators.
OPEC and its oil-producing partners have rebuffed President Joe Biden’s calls for increased production amidst rising fuel prices, retorting that if the United States believes the world’s economy needs more energy, then it has the capability to increase production itself. The OPEC+ alliance, made up of OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-member top producers guided by Russia, approved an increase in production of 400,000 barrels per day for the month of December.
President Joe Biden is in Glasgow, on the second phase of a trip abroad which began with the 2021 G20 summit in Rome. Joining him in Scotland is an outsized American delegation for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), including not only Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Climate Envoy John Kerry, but six members of cabinet. To avoid meeting Biden – and international criticism – China’s leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin do not participate in Glasgow.
Ministers from twenty-four developing nations – including China, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan – released a statement ahead of the United Nations Climate Change summit (COP26) denouncing new net-zero standards as discriminatory. The plan asks for all countries to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Climate negotiations have long been shaped by equity concerns; this makes sense. The recognition that different countries have different responsibilities for, and capabilities to, address climate change is at the heart of the U.N. negotiation process. More advanced countries not only have greater resources to devote towards the greening of their economies relative to emerging economies, they also benefitted from unlimited cheap fossil fuels throughout the 20th century to get where they are today. Many argue that is unfair for these advanced economies to “pull the ladder up behind them” now that they have reached a sufficient level of development. Not all countries can afford to make the same expensive energy transitions as their already developed neighbors.
The recently disclosed Pandora Papers—a massive trove of documents disclosing offshore bank accounts, tax evasion and money laundering—revealed massive corruption in numerous European countries. The prime minister of the Czech Republic, the president of Ukraine and many others are allegedly involved. Such corruption corrodes the body politic of U.S. allies, and even threatens their security.
Europe is in the throes of an unprecedented energy crunch. Some call it a crisis, which, if not addressed, may be comparable to the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s – with dire economic, social and political consequences. Brent crude is at a 5 year high of $84 per barrel while spot natural gas prices are up more than 500% year-over-year, forcing highly polluting gas-to-coal switching and putting the brakes on the EU’s green energy transition. Resurgent energy demand post-Covid, extreme weather events (unprecedented heatwaves and prolonged winters), supply chain disruptions, and poor regional and global stockpiling have all contributed to Europe’s current crisis. Russia’s supremo Vladimir Putin may have a reason to pop a champagne bottle in view of the EU’s sanctions on the Kremlin. He says that Europe had created a self-inflicted wound. He may be right.
The fuel crisis spreading across Europe and Asia highlights the weather-related vulnerabilities faced by global energy systems. As wind and solar falter under intermittency, power generation has defaulted to gas, where demand is being squeezed by early-autumn heating and late-summer electric cooling needs across Eurasia. The reverberations of February’s polar vortex in Texas—which froze gas output—continue to be felt as resulting low reserves run dry and Gazprom dithers. The resiliency of energy supply chains is being put to the test—and failing.
As an exhausted, internally divided America proclaims its return and promises a new era of diplomatic leadership, its global partners are rightfully skeptical. Year one of the Biden era has seen the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, casting doubts about the president’s foreign policy judgment. So long as the disgraced President Donald J. Trump remains the Republicans’ current frontrunner for 2024, the world cannot expect fidelity and competence to emerge from the loyal opposition. For now, at least, it is on President Biden to provide leadership, course-correct away from the lack of reliability, and contain Chinese aggrandizement before its merry band of fellow autocrats from Moscow to Kabul and from Tehran to Pyongyang supplants the US-led world order. Biden’s recent work to transform Australia into an Indo-Pacific bulwark against China, however, has worryingly offended a critical ally — France — and exposed some serious bungling in the U.S. Government.
Thousands across Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon are fleeing their homes as historic wildfires whip through the region. This is climate change in its manic phase. And it is getting worse.
Record-breaking floods have devastated Western Europe, leaving at least 170 people dead and over 1,300 unaccounted for. This catastrophe will have long-lasting implications on European – and global – politics and policies, including an impact on the forthcoming German general elections in September, and the rollout of the EU radical energy policy package that was unveiled on July 14. This includes commitments to be the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
When Joe Biden confronts the strongman of Russia on June 16th, the global balance of power will be at stake, for the remainder of his presidency and beyond. The responsibility on Biden's shoulders will be tremendous. The forecast? Grim.
This Newlines Institute Contours podcast presents a deep dive into U.S. President Joe Biden’s inaugural visit to Europe, his administration’s commitment to collective defense, and the fragile trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations ahead of the June 16 Geneva summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this episode, Newlines Institute Senior Analyst and Contours host, Nicholas Heras, sits down with four special guests: Jim Townsend, Jr., an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy; Rachel Rizzo, the Director of Programs at the Truman Center and Truman National Security Project; Dr. Ariel Cohen, a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council and Founding Principal of International Market Analysis, Ltd; and Caroline Rose, a Senior Analyst and Head of Newlines Institute’s Power Vacuums Program.
What makes renewable energy so exciting is the immense economic potential of groundbreaking technology advancements.
A recent discovery by engineers of Oxford Brookes University’s School of Engineering, Computing, and Mathematics could change the design of offshore wind farms forever. The study, led by Professor Iakovos Tzanakis, demonstrates that deep sea and coastal wind turbines could achieve a 15% increase in power output if traditional horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs) are replaced by a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) design. While classic HAWT windmills produce energy with a standard three-blade “pinwheel” design, VAWT utilizes a more cylindrical shape with blades rotating around a central shaft.
On Thursday April 15, President Biden imposed long-awaited sanctions on Russia, blaming the Kremlin for the SolarWinds hack that breached U.S. government agencies and American companies. The sanctions are aimed at Russia's disinformation efforts and the occupation of Crimea, along with its recent military buildup and exercises on the Ukraine border. Ten Russian diplomats were expelled as a result.
The idea of space-based laser weapons orbiting the earth has been a part of popular culture and real life government projects for decades, from James Bond’s Goldeneye to Ronald Reagan’s ambitious “Star Wars” program. Recently, the Pentagon began developing a framework to promote the innovation of what it calls Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) designed to weaponize laser systems for use against military targets. The U.S. military more than doubled its spending on DEWs between 2017 and 2019, from $535 million to $1.1 billion. Yet, compared with the massive funding for kinetic missile defense and nuclear modernization, these are minuscule budgets.
Beijing and Moscow assiduously followed former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial for the same reasons they followed the first: the United States is China's and Russia's number one geopolitical rival. What's relevant to America's domestic politics, then, is relevant to its rivals' foreign policy ambitions. To prevent acts of hostility in a time of tumult—virtual and real—the Biden administration will need to reassure allies, shore up American institutions and deter aggression.