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Helen Thompson
Says More…

This week in Say More, PS talks with Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge and the author of Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century.

Project Syndicate: Europe has vowed to wean itself off Russian energy. But, as you point out in your book, Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century, Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas dates back to the Cold War, and you recently noted that the energy relationship with Germany “proved robust through six decades of shifting US-Soviet and later US-Russia relations.” This suggests that energy policy has not always adhered to geopolitical or ideological rules of engagement. But the Ukraine war seems to have shown otherwise. How long would it realistically take for Europe to transform its energy market? Is genuine energy security feasible, or will Europe leave itself vulnerable to new dependencies?

Helen Thompson: I don’t think it is possible for European countries to end their energy relationship with Russia. The world economy cannot function without Russian crude oil. Even if less Russian crude oil is now coming directly to Europe, more of it is going to Asia – in particular, India – and then returning to Europe as refined petroleum products. Likewise, there is not enough supply of liquefied natural gas available for export for European countries to replace pipelined supplies from Russia with sea-borne imports from elsewhere.

European countries are condemned to struggle with energy security, because they are not resource-rich. And more wind and solar power won’t change that, because the use of these energy sources requires metals that come predominantly from elsewhere in the world.