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RALEIGH – Russia has attacked Europe in an amazing act of economic aggression. Russia closed its Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, cutting off an important source of natural gas to Germany and the European Union. Here is a typical news story about this event:

Russia switches off Europe’s main gas pipeline until sanctions are lifted

“Peskov’s comments were the starkest demand yet by the Kremlin that it wants the EU to roll back its sanctions in exchange for Russia resuming full gas deliveries to the continent. European leaders have said Russia’s technical issues are a ruse and have accused Moscow of “weaponising” its energy exports to retaliate against the western sanctions.”

The word “weaponizing” is important because Russia is in essence declaring economic war with Europe by shutting down this important natural gas pipeline.

Let’s review how we got to this point:

  1. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, starting the 2022 war on Ukraine.
  2. Since Ukraine is not a NATO country, NATO, the European Union and the United States did not directly engage in the battle. One big reason for this: concern over the possibility of starting WWIII in Europe and nuclear Armageddon
  3. Instead, the NATO countries started supplying advanced weapons and military intelligence to Ukraine to give Ukraine a fighting chance in the war.
  4. The Western alliance also began significant economic sanctions against Russia in the hopes that Russia would be encouraged to end the war.
  5. On September 5, Russia attacked Europe by shutting down the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, an essential source of natural gas for Europe. Russia’s demand: that the sanctions end.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its ongoing war in Ukraine is an incredible act of aggression. Russia attacked a peaceful sovereign nation for no reason. The Western sanctions against Russia were a reasonable non-violent response. The Western position for ending sanctions would therefore be that Russia end the war in Ukraine, withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and pay billions of dollars in reparations to Ukraine for all the unprovoked destruction and murder that Russia has inflicted.

Instead, Russia began another act of aggression by cutting off the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe with the demand that sanctions end. It seems like a completely irrational gambit. The only way it could work is if Europe is so desperate for this natural gas in the coming winter that Europe is forced to capitulate to this new Russian attack.

This means that there are two potential futures that will unfold from here:

  1. Europe capitulates to Russia’s demands in order to turn the natural gas back on. This probably would also mean that Europe abandons Ukraine to Russia.
  2. Europe survives the immediate pain of Nord Stream 1’s closure in 2022 and 2023 and then is free from any dependence on Russian natural gas going forward. In the process, Europe is likely to dramatically speed up its conversion to green energy sources, with benefits for the whole planet.

The Short Term Pain from the Closure of Nord Stream 1

Nord Stream 1 is now closed. Europe faces a crisis because Europe is currently dependent on this natural gas supply for three important reasons:

  • A significant number of Europe’s power plants use natural gas
  • A significant number of Europe’s factories use natural gas
  • A significant number of Europe’s homes use natural gas for heating, water heating, cooking, etc.

With Russia’s pipeline dead, all three aspects are threatened.

With winter fast approaching, there are three big concerns:

  • Will there be enough electricity, and if there is will anyone be able to afford it?
  • Will a large number of factories need to shut down, leading to economic havoc from lost production and worker layoffs?
  • Will many people freeze in homes and apartments they can no longer heat because there is no natural gas for their furnaces?

This video provides a quick overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ4Ze63Djlk

We can focus on the situation in Germany to get a better understanding of the European situation as a whole. In round numbers, Germany burns 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. 55 billion cubic meters of that natural gas came from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Therefore, Germany has lost a significant portion of its natural gas supply in one stroke.

Germany generates its electricity in several different ways right now:

  • 51% comes from renewable sources: Wind, solar, hydro and biomass
  • 13% comes from nuclear
  • 24% comes from coal
  • 12% comes from natural gas

In the short term, how can Germany and Europe survive this coming winter so that Europe does not need to capitulate to Russia’s demands?

One piece of good news is that Germany has the ability to store natural gas. Its storage tanks can hold enough gas to last approximately three winter months. These storage tanks are nearly full right now. This will certainly help survive the winter.

What else is possible in 2022 given the very short time frame? One way to consider the situation is to use this analogy: Europe is fighting an economic war here. If we think back to World War II, how did places like the United States and Europe deal with the war? They went into a wartime mindset and ramped up production for the war effort. Europe + the United States could do the same thing this winter by:

  • Using extreme conservation measures in Europe to reduce the need for electricity and natural gas
  • Rationing, as was common in World War II
  • Controlling fossil fuel conglomerates to minimize price gouging and profiteering from this situation
  • Quickly adding additional generator capacity (e.g. diesel) to individual factories and the grid.
  • Temporary expansion of coal-powered electricity production
  • Keeping existing nuclear power plants online and maximizing their production
  • Expanding solar and wind power as quickly as humanly possible (not really helpful in 2022 because of the short timeframe, but more meaningful in 2023 and beyond)
  • Use of electric space heaters in homes heated by natural gas
  • Economic aid at both the individual and national levels
  • And so on

Measures like these should allow Europe to survive the winter of 2022/2023 rather than capitulating to Russia, and then we start looking at long-term strategies.

The Long-Term Effect of the Nord Stream 1 Closure

Although there will be short-term pain from the closure of Nord Stream 1, many people are looking forward to a silver lining: This could be a great opportunity to accelerate into the age of green energy in Europe. Europe will be forced to implement alternatives to natural gas from Russia, and many of these alternatives will be green. What might this look like?

Although it does not help in terms of green energy, one thing that the closure of Nord Stream 1 will do is put a new emphasis on Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) shipments to Europe. Right now, Europe has 34 terminals where massive LNG tankers can dock and bring LNG to Europe. A typical Q-Max tanker ship (typically arriving to Europe from Qatar) holds 155 million cubic meters of natural gas. In other words, if one of these ships arrives in Europe every day, it replaces the Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s capacity. The United States is ramping up shipments of LNG to Europe. Currently, there are seven export terminals in the United States and about 60 LNG tanker ships in operation worldwide. These numbers will certainly increase to make up for Nord Stream 1’s closure.

We should also look at a green option that has failed, at least in the first iteration. The idea was to generate solar power in Northern Africa and send it to Europe through undersea power lines in the Mediterranean. This video describes the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OpM_zKGE4o .


Problems with this idea included the cost of the power lines, transmission losses, the instability of North African nations, water consumption, and inequities seen by the host countries in Africa. Germany instead started a massive effort to install solar panels in Germany and today is a leading nation when it comes to photovoltaic panels. Germany’s stated goal is for all its electricity to come from green sources by 2035.

Combining the two previous ideas, one possibility is to generate green hydrogen using solar power in North Africa, convert the green hydrogen to green natural gas, and then ship this green natural gas to Europe with LNG tankers. This would provide Europe with a carbon-neutral form of natural gas that can take advantage of the extensive natural gas pipeline network in Europe. However, this idea is only in the experimental stages at the moment.

The next step would be to eliminate natural gas appliances from all European housing. This means:

  • Replacing natural gas furnaces with heat pumps
  • Replacing natural gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters or electric water heaters
  • Replacing natural gas stoves and ovens with electric stoves and ovens
  • The necessary expansions in grid capacity

This conversion could be prioritized and accelerated. If so, it would likely take a decade to complete the conversion.

You can see where this is heading. If all electricity in Europe comes from green sources rather than fossil fuels, and if all housing in Europe weans off natural gas and converts to electric appliances, and if green natural gas can replace the remaining need for fossil fuel natural gas, then Europe has visibility on completely eliminating its need for fossil fuel natural gas. This would significantly reduce Europe’s production of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Wild Card with China

Russia has become a pariah state for the Western countries including the European Union, the United States, Canada, and so on. The 2014 attack on Crimea, the 2022 war in Ukraine, and now the shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have soured all relationships with Russia. Likely this will lead to a complete disassociation between Russia and the Western countries.

But China is heading in the opposite direction, increasing its ties to Russia as demonstrated in these headlines:

China could easily become a pariah nation just like Russia if China were to continue increasing military ties to Russia and/or by invading Taiwan.

On the other hand, China is making great strides when it comes to green energy:

From the first article:

“China is already leading in renewable energy production figures. It is currently the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy, and the largest domestic and outbound investor in renewable energy. Four of the world’s five biggest renewable energy deals were made by Chinese companies in 2016. As of early 2017, China owns five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturing companies and the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer.”

The question then becomes: what will China do? Will China behave like a pariah by invading Taiwan, or align with a pariah by increasing its ties with Russia, or expand its consumption of fossil fuels coming from Russia? Or would it be more advantageous for China to align with the West, leaving Russia much more isolated? Or will China play both sides to its own advantage? We will get to watch events unfold over the next several years and see what happens.