For the past 2 weeks NATO countries have been imposing a variety of sanctions on Russia, including companies such as iPhone and Mcdonalds restricting or banning sales. As a response to all of these sanctions imposed on Russia, Putin has recently threatened to cut off the gas line running into Germany. This is if they decide to ban Russian oil too.
Now, we all know how not only Europe but countries around the world are so dependent on gas and oil. Russia gets a high proportion of money from the gas supplies just because of this reason. So how are we so dependent on such a toxic and harmful source of energy? What could happen if gas supplies are cut off at this moment of time?
What do we use gas for?
We use gas everyday, it’s a taken for granted commodity. Most natural gas is used for heating and generating electricity. It’s resourcefulness spreads many sectors and it as a commodity powers many aspects of our lives. The residential sector uses natural gas for heating, not just buildings but for food and water for cooking as well as to dry clothes. The industrial sector uses it as a means of fuel powering many aspects and fields. The transport sector uses it as a fuel for vehicles and the list goes on. Put simply, it has an incredibly vital role in our lives.
What are the alternatives of gas:
On Monday, EU energy ministers met up in Brussels to discuss how to break dependency. “We have to prepare for all possibilities”, claimed the France ecological transition minister, Barbara Pompili. The European Union has sufficient gas and oil stocks to withstand short term disruption, however “there is an issue with long-term supplies”.
Here are a few options that the EU stated that they wanted to consider:
LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) :
Liquified Natural Gas is a natural gas that has been cooled down to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurised storage or transport. LNG is odourless, colourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. It can be used in a variety of ways: residential usage includes cooking, heating homes and generating electricity. Commercial uses for natural gas include heating, generating electricity, manufacturing products like fertilisers, pains and medication, and occasionally fueling commercial vehicles. LNG is composed almost exclusively of methane. It does not burn as a liquid.
There is no doubt that LNG is tremendously suitable as a source of gas. It is cost-effective, environmentally friendly and the process is smart, safe and affordable to meet regulations.
There are many countries to gain LNG from, including the US, Qatar and even Norway. It may be surprising that Norway is actually the third biggest providing country of LNG in Europe, coming after Russia and Qatar.
Sadly, even if we may be able to fit in this gap short term with the use of LNGs, it is not sustainable for long term living.
There are several ways to compensate for natural gas and fossil fuels – including renewable energy. Germany is aiming to speed up the growth of its solar energy as well as on-shore and off-shore wind projects. Economy Minister Robert Habeck, a leading member of Greens party said faster expansion of renewable energy is key to reducing Germany’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Solar power works by converting energy from the sun into power. There are two forms of energy that can be generated from sunlight for our usage – electricity and heat. Both are generated with the use of solar panels, ranging in size from residential rooftops to even solar farms, stretching acres over rural land. Solar energy converts sunlight into energy through photovoltaic panels (PV panels) ot through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This radiation can be used to generate electricity or it can be stored in batteries in the form of chemical energy, or stored as thermal energy too. It actually doesn’t generate waste neither does it contaminate water. It can also reduce the carbon footprint of your home by up to 80% a year.
Wind Power Energy
This is the use of solar panels to generate electricity. Wind power is a popular, sustainable and renewable energy source and it has a much smaller impact on the environment than using natural gases and oil.
They use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. WInd slows over the blades creating lift (quite similar to the impact on aircraft wings during take-off). This in turn causes the blades to turn, allowing rotation to occur. The blades are also connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator, which generates electricity.
Wind turbines do not release emissions that can pollute air or water, and they do not require water for cooling to occur. Wind turbines also reduce the amount of electricity generation from fossil fuels, which results in lower total air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
Hydroelectric energy is also called hydroelectric power. This is a form of energy that harnesses the power of water in motion, such as water flowing over a waterfall, to generate electricity.
In this form of energy production, a hydraulic turbine converts the energy from flowing water into mechanical energy. The force of moving water (kinetic energy) will push against a turbine’s blades, causing the turbine to spin. It is rather similar to wind power energy mechanisms.
Hydropower is fueled by water, making it a clean source of energy. The efficiency of producing electric energy is about 90%.
Imagine having to walk or ride a bike to travel instead of using vehicles. Imagine having to use fires as a source of heat, and candles as light. Most significantly to most of you, imagine not having a smartphone or WiFi. Technology has advanced so much in this modern world. Is this the moment that it all crashes?
Considering that getting through half a winter without Russian imports could already be difficult, running the European economy for several years without Russian gas could be hugely challenging. Although there may be time to prepare, there is also a very high volume of gas that needs to be replaced with a different source.
In 2021, Russian natural gas exports towards the European Union amounted to around 1550 TWh via the pipeline and around 120 TWh via LNG.
Now quickly increasing domestic production of energy sources will only be possible at gas fields that have spare capacity. Technically, more gas can be extracted from the Groningen field but getting additional TWhs per year might even lead to earthquakes in certain regions due to the intense workload.
Until the summer, the EU would be able to survive large-scale disruption to Russian gas supplies, based on a combination of increased LNG imports and demand sire measures. However this would put a huge load onto the economy of EU countries, and might even result in some countries having to take emergency measures due to lack of supply.
So – is threatening Russia with major sanctions a form of economical suicide? Considering the efforts of so many countries to cut down fuel usage we are nowhere near independent of it; it’s hard to even get through a year without Russian gas supply (despite there being other sources). Maybe this is a time when we make our best efforts to use renewable sources of energy, it could be a push factor towards stopping the usage of non-renewable sources of energy.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has changed the whole world in a matter of 2 weeks, and it can even be detrimental to countries if Putin does cut off gas supplies. We’ve just suffered a huge economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic which lasted 2 years. Can you see what the future holds?
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