Category Archives: Energy and Geopolitics

My Al Jazeera: I was asked to assess Pres. Von der Leyen’s proposals on the energy crisis | Sharing hardships fairly is the key to unity.

Just as President Von der Leyen finished her speech, I was asked for an analysis of her proposals to cope with the energy crisis – which Member States’ will meet to approve or reject on 30 September.

EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen presented the commission’s plan to address the growing energy crisis before and during the coming winter. Now there will be two weeks of discussions among Member states until their energy ministers gather on 30 September to decide which to endorse.
There will undoubtedly be no price caps on Russian or other natural gas.
There will be liquidity for those energy companies struggling to purchase high-priced gas.
There are measures to decouple the effects, at least, of the coupling of the electricity prices to high natural gas prices in the wake of Putin’s regime cutting its pipeline flows to Europe. The idea here, as I explained, is a sort of “windfall profits taxes” on low-cost energy producers, such as renewables and nuclear, to capture their rents and redistribute them to those citizens and firms struggling to pay energy bills during the crisis.
I explain that this is a wholly appropriate measure during wartime, which is what this is – an economic and energy war vs. Russia to support the Ukrainian people’s fight against Russian aggression.
I was asked, again, as on other networks recently, whether the EU is “divided” on these measures.
I explained how there are absolutely no proposals that the EU (or USA) back down on its sanctions program vs. Russia and esp. vs. Russian energy.
I explained how, despite Orban of Hungary and some similar examples, these have been pretty well handled by the majority of Member states and the Commission and in fact the sanctions and emergency measures have gone forward.
I noted that in two or so years, Russia will be relegated to a second-level energy exporter, and the EU will certainly be able to be independent of Putin’s regime in the energy sector.

Al Jazeera’s video on my view: “What does Russia’s gas cut mean for Europe?”

My thanks to Al Jazeera’s Katya Bohdan, producer, and the digital team in Doha (English) for this well done “documentary” featuring my point of view on: “What does Russia’s gaas cur mean for Europe?” I think it is self-explanatory (and its short). Watch it below or directly at the AJ link here. Tom OD.

My AlJazeera: Russia cuts exports via Nord Stream 1 by 60%, further weaponizing EU over-dependence, as part of its war against Ukraine. EU winter gas rationing is possible.

Jun 17, 2022 Today, Gazprom announced a further cut in exports of gas via Nord Stream 1 to Germany and on into Europe. Earlier this week, they had cut 40%, now it is 60% of the 55 billion cubic meters per year (bcm) that normally flows in this pipe.

I explained that the Gazprom excuse – -that it could not re-import some compressor parts it had sent to Siemens to repair in Canada due to sanctions — appears as a convenient, manufactured excuse.

I pointed out that a one-off sanctions waiver from the USA, EU and/or Canada for the reimportation of these very specific parts could likely be easily arranged – and if the gas did not again flow fully, Gazprom’s ruse would be clearly exposed.

However, as I said, this is more accurately understood as simply another step in the weaponization of the over-dependence of the European Union (and esp. of Germany, Austria and Italy) on Russian gas imports, a game which Mr. Putin began in earnest in August of 2021.

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My DW live: Gazprom Germania bailout: German policy made EU hostage to Russian energy, enabled Moscow’s Ukraine war | German strategy 1980-2022 was “strategic balancing” of Russia vs USA to carve out a space for its freedom of action within sphere of USA predominance.

My DW Live, 14 June 2022: Gazprom Germania baili out; What was the logic of German elites to partner with Russia on energy?

My live discussion with DW (Deutsche Welle, the German national broadcaster; in English) on 14 Jun 2022 on Gazprom Germania’s Euro 10 b loan from the German state. I stressed that German Energy policy has made the EU hostage to Russian energy, and enabled Moscow’s Ukraine war. Why did Germany do this?

From 1980-to-2022 German elites depended on their Russian oil-and-gas partnership as a means to carve out a space for German capital despite general USA predominance, while still remaining inside the USA-protected Western alliance and global trade system. Their geostrategic gamble — a “strategic balancing” of Russia for perogatives vis-a-vis USA predominance — has led to disaster..

We discussed the reasons the German government is offering up to Euro10 billion to bail out Gazprom Germania, which was a daughter of Russian state gas export monopoly, Gazprom, in St. Petersburg.

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Asharq live: No EU embargo agreed vs. Russian oil. Some too cautious (Germany), others pro-Putin (Hungary). Yet, EU has months of oil in storage. [EN audio, AR video]

Above: ENGLISH Audio }} Below: ARABIC video
I was on with the expert, Sona Muzikarova,a chief economist at GLOBSEC in Bratislava, Slovakia.

We discussed the EU’s repeated failures to impose an embargo in Russian oil. Now, (after Monday 30 May) they are considering a sea-borne-oil-only embargo.

My Al Jazeera: Finland, the Baltics & Poland prepared well for Gazprom’s cutoff. Germany & Austria did the opposite, putting EU at risk.

ABOVE is English audio — BELOW is Arabic video. Recorded live; Al Jazeera, 21 May 2022.

I told Al Jazeera that Finland is well prepared, having worked since 2017 with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – the Baltic states – and with Poland to connect them all together with new pipelines, also to access LNG, storage and soon, new supplies from Norway.

Finland has also rented a regasification ship, from a US firm, to receive 5 billion cubic meters per year of LNG, whch will be plenty to supply both itself and Estonia in the wake of Putin cutting off Gazprom supplies of natural gas. Finland refuses, as did Poland too, to pay Moscow in rubles and so are being punished by Putin.

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My Kosatka (Kyiv) Q&A: “Biden’s ‘gas airlift’ & Kremlin revenue. Tom O’Donnell on Russian gas embargo” [Ru/En/Ua]

Kostaka.Media (Kyiv) independent journalists continue informing the Ukranian people on energy affairs. I was interviewed from afar by YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO. We focused on gas issues – would Putin cut Europe’s gas? What have the Americans been organizing, now with the Europeans? How would this affect Europe, Ukraine and Putin’s income?

Below are links to the article in Kostaka’s three languages (EN, RU, UA). I pasted in the English one below, in case you have access problems. This interview had to be written, not audio/video, due to wartime difficulties. [Also, here’s my previous (in-person Kyiv) interview with Kostaka.Media.]

Biden’s Gas Air Lift and the impact on Kremlin revenue: Thomas W. O’Donnell on the russian gas embargo
28 April 2022 — Author YAROSLAV MARKIN, TETIANA HUZENKO

Europe is going to cut the consumption of gas by a ⅔ in 2022, that is obviously will affect the Kremlin’s revenue. However, an embargo is highly possible as well. Both the Kremlin and the EU, in response to Russia’s new war crimes in Ukraine, could stop the gas flows.
In such a case, LNG supplies are to help weather the crisis of 2022-2023 via Biden Air Lift. The last mentioned is being set up by the US and EU diplomats and is patterned on the Berlin Air Lift of 1949. Berlin Air Lift was a system of food and coal supply during the times when the USSR had been blocking land routes.
This would be the end of Russian gas supplies to Europe forever, an international expert and senior energy and geopolitics analyst at GlobalBarrel.com, Dr Thomas W. O’Donnell believes.
He told Kosatka.Media how quickly Europe would be able to abandon Russian gas, what alternative supply routes could be used, and whether Hungary and Austria, obsessed with Russian gas, could prevent this.

The analogue of Putin’s army in the energy sector
How much gas does Europe import from Russia per year? Who are the major consumers?

There are two different market processes whereby Russian gas is purchased by Europe. If we speak about only gas delivered by pipeline, these are:
І. Via long-term contracts, agreements which are for natural gas to be delivered for several years, perhaps from five to as much as 20 years.

ІІ. Via the “spot” market. These are short-term contracts for gas to be delivered the following month. It is also possible to buy gas day-by-day, where traders agree to a price for gas delivered the next day. Here, gas traders consult the future’s market, which has set the price for gas delivered the next day, or the next month, or some number of months in the future.

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Le dije a Radio Clarín Buenos Aires: Putin amenaza con cortarle el gas a la UE/Alemania, pero no tiene otra fuente de dinero. Si lo hace, Biden y la UE organizarán un “Gas-Lift” … [Spanish]

Lo sentimos, la calidad de la comunicación celular desde Alemania no es buena. Por lo tanto, he escrito mi respuesta larga a la primera pregunta a continuación. Las otras preguntas también están abajo. Muchas gracias a los periodistas de Radio Clarín y La Nacion en Argentina (y en París).

Re: Urgente Pedido de Entrevista Periodística – Corresponsales Clarín y La Nación – Argentina

De Maria E… … Fri, Apr 29, 11:50 PM

Dr. O ´Donnell, … Estas son las preguntas para la entrevista del domingo:

1¿Alemania tiene otra posibilidad que no sea seguir comprando el gas ruso? ¿Cuáles serían sus otras opciones?

Repuesta: Antes que nada, muchas gracias por esta oportunidad de hablar con su audiencia argentina.

Pues, debo señalar que hay dos problemas diferentes: el suministro de petróleo ruso a Alemania y Europa y el suministro de gas ruso a Alemania y Europa. Me preguntas por el gas. El gas es mucho más difícil para Europa y para Alemania que el petróleo Hay dos casos: una reducción gradual o parcial de gas o un corte inmediato.

Un corte gradual se puede manejar bastante bien. Ahora Putin está tratando de dividir y conquistar Europa cortando el suministro de gas a Polonia y Bulgaria.

Un recorte inmediato, ya sea por parte de Putin o debido a las sanciones de la UE, crearía una gran crisis energética en Europa. Sin embargo, es importante entender que, al final, Putin está en una posición mucho más débil.

Si Putin corta todos los suministros de gas a Europa, ahora no hay suficiente gas en el mercado mundial para compensar. Pero Occidente, y especialmente EE. UU., la administración Biden, se ha estado preparando para esto al menos dos meses antes de que Putin invadiera Ucrania, incluso antes de que Europa creyera las advertencias de EE. UU. de que Putin atacaría Ucrania.

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My Al Jazeera: Yes, the EU can embargo Russian oil now: OPEC’s role, Germany’s Druzhba refineries OK, SPRs, weak demand. [Arabic & English]

Above: ENGLISH AUDIO }} Below: ARABIC VIDEO

Can the EU embargo Russian oil now? I explain yes, it can, and how. Also what OPEC will do. My Live Al Jazeera interview on 12.03.22 (ca. 00:20 CET, 18:20 EST). Here are the main points coved, quickly, from memory.

Afer an initial price spike from an EU embargo, the IEA’s SPR – strategic pertroleum reserves – can make up any shortall of oil for some weeks or so or months while OPEC and the USA increase production.

Especially the UAE and most especially Saudi Arabia have significant excess capacity, at least 2 million barrel/day (mbd) they can add to the market. Oil is fungable, there is one global market, so in principle the shock of an embargo could be ended rather quickly.

Regarding Germany: it is the main EU Member state now opposed to an immediate Russian oil embargo. However, I am confident it is being overly cautious and that Germany can do this now without significant disruptions.

In particular, Germany worries about the fact that several refineries in Germany and Central Europe are located inland, and supplied by the Druzhba Pipeline bringing about 700,000 barrels per day of Urals grade oil (i.e., hevier, sulferous oil) as their feedstock. So, the German government is claiming it would be very difficult to supply these refineries. However, this is not such a problem.

Consider that two German refineries, in the South of Germany, Bavaria for example; these two refineries are on a second pipeline, the Transalpine pipeline. This comes from the port of Trieste Italy. So these two refineries are fine. In an embargo of Russian Druzhba Pipeline oil they can be supplied from Trieste.

However, the refinery the German leaders most worry about is called Svedt, and it is located in Germany near the Polish border, also on the Druzhba pipeline [i.e., PCK Oil Refinery, at Schwedt, Oder River, Brandenburg State, Germany]. However, I can make some immediate points about this refinery.

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My Al Jazeera: Global oil price expectations due to Russia’s war on Ukraine [Arabic & English]

Here’s: i) English audio ii) Arabic video iii) my English blog points

My Al Jazeera, Arabic 07 March 2022 live:The 2022 Global Oil Crisis of Russia’s Ukraine war has begun.

Al Jazeera asked me, about the Russian Foreign minister’s declaration that oil prices could go to $300/barrel if the West sanctions its oil. [Note: this interview was a week ago; but still relevant.]

I said: Finally the Russian minister has said something true. However, I explained that USA sanctions – as the EU also wanted – initially (Note: at the time of this interview, President Biden had not yet banned USA imports of Russian oil) had included exemptions from the larger SWIFT sanctions on Russian bank transactions specifically allowing continued payments for Russian oil and gas exports. And, last week, Putin, for his part, specifically also said he would not cut off Russian oil and gas deliveries to the West. So, why do we suddenly have the beginnings of a crisis of undersupply of Russian oil to the “”‘Global Barrel’ (dot com)”” oil market? It turned out that global-oil market actors themselves – the western banks that finance purchases, the spot market traders who make daily deals and oil-tanker owners who have to send their tankers to Russian ports to pick up oil – have broadly and voluntarily backed off from buying Russian oil. There are various reasons – there is over-compliance to sanctions, being super careful not to inadvertently violate the complex sanctions, reduce risk of sudden supply disruption from the Russian side, and also the fact that no tanker will pick up oil in a war zone or nearby without appropriate insurance, etc. There are also reputational issues of being seen by civil society as engaging in war profiteering if an entity purchases what is now deeply discounted Russian crude. I also explained that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) system of the OECD states, which should hold at minimum 90-days of the total imports of any OECD state’s oil imports, will soften the shortage of oil should the purchase of Russian oil be sanctioned by the USA and/or EU, or if Putin and Lavrov decide to cut off Russia’s oil supply to Europe.

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EU Gas Crisis: German elites chose Putin’s pipeline over Ukraine “risk” | My DW ‘Inside Europe’ interview (NPR syndicated)

Piece image
My thanks to Deutsche Welle’s (DW, German public broadcaster) Kate Laycock for this interview (and intrepid producer Helen). Their website link is below for this 25.02.22 podcast as war began

IE: Inside Europe, 2/25/2022 From: DW – Deutsche Welle Series: Inside Europe: News and Current Affairs ~ Weekly from DW

This week on the show: Russia-Ukraine war. UK sanctions on Russia. Russia gas. The mood in Russia. How ordinary people are struggling to get by…

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My CGTN TV: The growing EU v Russia asymmetry in energy trade. EU-USA nix oil/gas sanctions over Ukraine, fearing supply crisis.

I had a good live talk with CGTN TV hosts on my analysis of a growing “asymmetry” in energy relations between the EU and Russia.

Especially in natural gas, the EU is increasingly dependent on Russian supplies while Russia is decreasingly dependent on its EU market.

Under Putin, Russia and Gazprom have constantly worked not only to:

  1. Build new pipelines to Europe (principally via the Baltic Sea-to-Germany) so as to detour its exports around Ukraine. This has enabled Putin to committ his present massive aggression there without risking delivery of Gazprom gas to its European markets west of Ukraine. However it has also worked to
  2. Diversify its market for natural gas away from Europe. This includes 10-15-years of projects to build new major pipelines to China and Eurasia and plans for more still (e.g., Power of Siberia 2 pipeline), and to build large-scale LNG export terminals, owned mainly by Russia’s Novatek firm, in its Arctic regions and on Sakhalin Island in the far east. This gas is relatively sanctions-proofed in that it can be delivered by ship to any world market, though it mainly goes to Asia where LNG prices are generally highest.

I explain that this growing asymmetry is precisely why the USA-and-EU have NOT included energy sanctions in their package retaliating for Putin’s present war on Ukraine.

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My TRT/Istanbul: Biden names Qatar a “major non-NATO ally,” seeks LNG for EU. Energy scenarios of a Russian war vs. Ukraine.

Strait Talk with host Aisha-Aura Sbadus @suberker in Istanbul. My co-panelist was Tom Marzec-Manser @tmarzecmanser Head of Gas Analytics at @ICISOfficial

We discussed scenarios for how the EU energy crisis might go in a new Russian war against Ukraine, and the significance of USA President Biden designating Qatar as a “major non-NATO ally.”

In particular, we discussed how much could Qatari LNG be made available and what its impact would be alongside the massive US LNG deliveries so far this year.

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EU Energy Crisis: Germany & EU long ignored US warnings that Putin can weaponize gas, attack Ukraine – On David Foster’s Roundtable, London

26.01.2022. Experts Wahid Machram, market analyst in Dubai; Samuel Ramadi at Oxford University, UK. and TRT Roundtable host David Foster in London made important points. Here’s a key assessment I made.:

There is a new and growing asymmetry between the European Union and Russia in energy supplies – one increasingly favoring Moscow.

Europe has opened itself to energy blackmail. The present winter 2021-22 gas shortage and skyrocketing prices are only one part. There is also the real possibility of Putin cutting off the pipeline gas he is still supplying in the event that Europe, esp. Germany, opposes any Russian invasion of Ukraine.

About the new EU-Russia growing energy asymmetry:

  • On the demand side, Germany and Europe generally increasingly need natural gas, and are growing more dependent on Russian supplies, contrary to the promises of rapid progress to a carbon-free future of the German Green Party and others. The EU, and especially Berlin, have adopted ideologically-determind, technologically unrealistic and expensive energy-transition policies, with little concern for energy-supply security. This has made Europe increasingly dependent on Russian gas imports – 40% at present of total gas imports,
  • Meanwhile, on the supply side, Russia, the major European supplier, is increasingly finding ways to diversify its gas customer base away from Europe, to the Far East, especially to China, and to Eurasia generally. It also has new outlets for its vast Arctic gas resources by converting it to LNG that can go by ship to anywhere in the world.
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EU Commission openness to nuclear as green, betrays falling confidence in the German 100%-renewables model [English & Polish]

Dr. Thomas W. O’Donnell, Berlin 27.01.22 (Polish original 22.09.22)

Printed in Polish by Banker.pl as Komisja Europejska może uznać energetykę jądrową za “zieloną” 2021-09-22, from a written interview with Artur Chierskiwsky (PAP, Brussels) Here’s the unpublished English.-Tom O’D. [Edit:: Headline word “betrays” was initially miswritten “belays”].

Reportedly, the EU Commission plans to soon include nuclear power in its green finance taxonomy, finally making it eligible for favorable financing and carbon credits on a par with wind and solar.[1]

This could be spun two ways: as a victory for science over populist capture of climate policies, or as a tipping point in Brussels angst at the growing complexities and costs of the “100% renewables and no nuclear” model.

In reality, it’s some and some.

On the one hand, in March, the Commission received reports solicited from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), its scientific expert arm, finding that nuclear waste is “manageable”, posing no “significant” harm to the environment, and that nuclear energy has been demonstrated to be eminently safe.[2]

However, these assessments are not surprising. Had the Commission requested these years ago, they undoubtedly would have concluded similarly. Nuclear, public-health, risk-assessment and other expert bodies have been saying these things for years (full disclosure: my PhD is in experimental nuclear physics [3]).  

The question then is, why is this scientific consensus only now becoming actionable for the Commission?

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