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28th May 2022

Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy

  • Burning oil infrastructure in Ukraine - the invasion has increased pressure on EU lawmakers to quit Russian gas (Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
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As the invasion of Ukraine has put Europe's effort to wean itself off of Russian gas onto wartime alert, new analysis shows EU senior officials were closely consulting with fossil-fuel giants on how to do it.

Soaring gas prices and growing evidence that Russian troops are committing war crimes have increased pressure on EU lawmakers to replace Russian gas with alternative energy sources.

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In March, the EU Commission put forward its ambitious RePowerEU strategy that aims to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds before the end of the year and phase out its energy trade with Moscow by 2027.

But a Wednesday (11 May) report by lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) revealed commission president Ursula von der Leyen and energy commissioner Kadri Simson coordinated their RePowerEU communiqué on 23 March with the CEOs of six oil and gas companies — Shell, BP, Total, ENI, E.ON and Vattenfall.

According to meeting notes, an agreement was reached to set up an industry 'taskforce' that would determine which gas cutting measures were "feasible".

A much more detailed update of RePowerEU, expected to be unveiled on 18 March, was leaked on Tuesday.

The €195bn plan is set to bolster energy efficiency requiring member states to reduce energy consumption by at least 13 percent.

It also increases the share of renewables in the total energy mix from 40 to 45 percent. But the package may still change before adoption.

Other proposed measures will extend the life of existing gas infrastructure and envisions new "hydrogen-ready" pipelines connecting Europe to Africa, which the oil and gas sector would operate — although the size of this package is still unclear.

The meeting notes also show that the fossil-fuel executives advised the commission to seek out new long-term gas contracts to replace existing Russian gas — a move that would "lock the EU into decades more gas [use]", according to CEO.

"The task force should be scrapped," Pascoe Sabido, a researcher at COE, said. "If the commission wants the industry's views, then they must set up a public hearing so we can all hear what they have to say, rather than keeping it behind closed doors."

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