September 29, 2022 | Foreign Policy

As Winter Approaches, Europe Is Walking Off a Cliff

September 29, 2022 | Foreign Policy

As Winter Approaches, Europe Is Walking Off a Cliff

Excerpt

Facing the worst energy crisis since World War II as the cold-weather heating season starts, Europe continues to dither. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has presented a series of new European Union energy policies, including planned price caps, additional taxes on energy producers, establishment of a new European hydrogen bank, and new support for electric vehicles. European Union member states, meanwhile, are nationalizing utilities, setting electricity prices, and subsidizing consumers. These EU policies do not represent a significant departure from the policies that got the continent into the energy mess in the first place.

The fundamental problem is that Europe is still not facing the sources of its energy security crisis, preferring to blame outside forces for its current predicament. Von der Leyen and other European leaders point at Russia and its war on Ukraine for Europe’s energy woes. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s throttling of the gas taps has undoubtedly made things worse, but this will already be the third winter of Europe’s energy crisis. In the winters 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, Europe already experienced significant spikes in the prices of electricity and natural gas, as well as gas shortages that led to increased use of coal and fuel oil. European policymakers either did not take notice or preferred not to change course.

As long as so many people in Europe and elsewhere believe that the continent’s energy predicament is all about Putin, it helps to be very clear about the policies that led Europe to this crisis. Knowing what caused the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Brenda Shaffer is a faculty member at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, a senior advisor for energy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center. Follow her on Twitter @ProfBShaffer. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Russia