Europe’s fuel trade has ramped up its messaging since Russia invaded Ukraine, DeSmog can reveal. It seems to be exploiting nervousness over vitality safety to justify initiatives that danger locking Europe into long-term dependence on fossil fuels.
4 of the trade’s foyer organisations started to put up many extra tweets portraying investments in fuel and associated infrastructure as the important thing to safe vitality provides quickly after the invasion began. They maintained this technique all through final 12 months.
The foyer teams have been Fuel Infrastructure Europe; Fuel For Local weather; Eurogas; and the European department of the Worldwide Affiliation of Oil & Fuel Producers, which symbolize firms working pipelines, fuel storage, and infrastructure to import liquefied pure fuel (LNG). Members embrace oil majors reminiscent of Shell, BP, TotalEnergies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Eni, which have posted document income off the again of the vitality disaster triggered by the invasion.
Local weather advocates worry the tweets symbolize the tip of the iceberg of behind-closed-doors efforts to influence European governments to again long-term investments in fuel over the rollout of renewables and vitality effectivity wanted to attain the European Union’s local weather objectives.
“The fuel trade needs us to imagine that extra fuel makes us safer, however extra fuel results in extra local weather change which in actuality makes us much less safe,” mentioned Ben Franta, senior analysis fellow on the Oxford Sustainable Regulation Programme, who analyses authorized methods for holding fossil gasoline producers accountable for his or her local weather impacts.
“The fuel trade is utilizing right now’s information — the struggle and the vitality disaster — to attempt to lock in additional fuel for many years, regardless that the trade is aware of it’ll be disastrous for the local weather and worldwide stability,” he mentioned.
The DeSmog evaluation of 1,075 tweets by the 4 foyer teams confirmed that posts emphasising vitality safety, or the prospect of an vitality scarcity or disaster, accounted for about three p.c of tweets within the 10 months previous to the invasion. That proportion shot up greater than tenfold after the struggle began, with vitality safety–associated messaging showing in a couple of third of tweets from late February to December. Collectively, the 4 foyer teams have greater than 15,000 followers. The tweets typically used hashtags reminiscent of #StrategicAutonomy or #SecurityOfSupply.
To maintain transferring on the #energytransition whereas making certain #securityofsupply we want:
✅a talented workforce, ✅CCUS scale up,✅regulatory framework driving demand for #H2,✅renewable gases ramp up,✅LNG infrastructure.@EurogasJ on the CCUS & Hydrogen Decarbonisation Summit. pic.twitter.com/PsbDpm7Ke7
— Eurogas (@Eurogas_Eu) March 30, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine final February 24 pushed fuel costs to document ranges; threatened to cripple European households; raised the prospect of winter shortages; and despatched international locations reliant on imports of Russian pipeline fuel scrambling for alternate options.
Local weather advocates acknowledged the necessity for emergency fuel imports to bridge the hole as Europe quickly weaned itself off its dependence on Russia.
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However campaigners say the fuel trade is exploiting a brief disaster to revive long-standing plans to construct new terminals to import LNG from suppliers from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Qatar to Australia, and lay new pipelines — hooking Europe on imported fuel for many years to come back.
That prospect seems to contradict EU local weather targets, which suggest a discount in fuel demand of no less than 35 p.c in contrast with 2019 ranges by 2030. The emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane related to the initiatives may even undermine world local weather objectives, analysts warn.
“Earlier than February 2022, it appeared that fuel infrastructure initiatives have been beginning to flounder, fuel was more and more being seen as a non-viable funding in Europe attributable to local weather targets, stranded asset threats, public protests,” mentioned Greig Aitken of analysis and advocacy group World Power Monitor.
“The struggle has been a giant boon for the European fuel trade, and the fuel exporting international locations that the EU is now extra depending on,” Aitken mentioned.
The surge in new initiatives dangers producing over-capacity that can result in stranded belongings, Aitken warned. Because the invasion, the fuel trade has introduced that 195 billion cubic meters (bcm) per 12 months in LNG import terminal capability will come on-line by 2026, at a minimal value of seven billion euros, based on World Power Monitor knowledge. Earlier than the struggle, against this, the EU imported 155 bcm of fuel in 2021 from Russia, together with LNG.
James Weston, secretary-general of Eurogas, which represents dozens of European fuel firms and several other U.S. LNG exporters, mentioned the group’s members had a “severe accountability” to answer the vitality disaster on behalf of shoppers and trade.
“Subsequent winter goes to come back round in a short time and there’s no room for complacency,” Weston mentioned in an emailed assertion. “Our door is open to all local weather and vitality stakeholders who need to be part of us in discourse about how we will greatest handle the twin crises of local weather and vitality safety.”
Fuel For Local weather referred DeSmog to its web site, which says that fuel infrastructure would stay vital by way of 2050 because the trade shifted to “renewable” and “low carbon” gases to satisfy the objectives of the 2015 Paris local weather settlement.
“Fuel for Local weather advocates a sensible mixture of electrical energy and fuel in an built-in vitality system to ship an reasonably priced transition to local weather neutrality,” the web site says.
Fuel Infrastructure Europe and the Worldwide Affiliation of Oil & Fuel Producers didn’t reply to requests for remark. Each organisations say on their web sites that they’re supporting the sector to attain local weather neutrality.
The shift in the direction of vitality safety messaging was most marked in posts by Fuel Infrastructure Europe — which represents fuel storage, pipeline, and LNG terminal operators — with nearly half of the group’s post-invasion tweets discussing vitality safety.
Throughout the vitality safety messaging, DeSmog recognized three broad arguments utilized by the 4 foyer teams: issues about winter vitality shortages; the necessity to shield shoppers; and help for home fuel manufacturing.
#Europe must diversify its #fuel suppliers and strengthen its #vitality autonomy.
How?🔶Tapping into the huge quantity of #naturalgas reserves & assets we’ve got in Europe.⬇️
👉The #EU ought to present the suitable regulatory framework to incentivize #DomesticProduction proper now. pic.twitter.com/YEEgHbB91y
— IOGP Europe (@IOGP_EU) Might 13, 2022
Winter-related messaging was most typical in Eurogas and Fuel Infrastructure Europe posts; shopper safety was referenced most continuously in Eurogas posts; and help for home fuel manufacturing was discovered most frequently in posts by the Worldwide Affiliation of Oil & Fuel Producers, which additionally used its Twitter account to applaud nationwide efforts by international locations, together with the UK, Norway, Denmark, and Greece, to spice up home fuel manufacturing.
The surge in vitality safety messaging occurred towards a gentle drumbeat of tweets portraying fuel as a clear vitality supply, and selling fuel and hydrogen infrastructure as essential to the vitality transition, all through the 2 10 month-periods analysed on both aspect of the invasion.
Phrases reminiscent of “low-carbon fuel” or “renewable fuel” — which critics say quantity to greenwashing since they downplay the trade’s local weather affect — appeared in tweets from varied foyer teams.
Current 🇪🇺 #gasinfrastructure might be simply tailored to hold #renewable and #lowcarbon gases. This might help guarantee #energysecurity throughout the continent.
Extra insights in our newest Let’s Discuss 👇🏽 https://t.co/pcEP01Z8lG pic.twitter.com/jDtMCiYjKs
— Eurogas (@Eurogas_Eu) February 18, 2022
The teams additionally portrayed a know-how generally known as carbon seize and storage, which traps CO2 emitted from industrial websites, and hydrogen, as options for offering “clear fuel” and decarbonising the vitality system.
A number of the tweets additionally promoted renewable vitality. Campaigners say the fuel trade typically seeks to foster the notion that fuel and renewables are roughly equal when it comes to sustainability, and might work collectively in a decarbonized vitality system.
“The fuel trade will advocate for renewables to advocate for fuel alongside it,” mentioned Pascoe Sabido, researcher for the Brussels-based marketing campaign group Company Europe Observatory. “They’re saying ‘we wish every part’ as a method to open a again door and maintain [gas] going.”
“A reputable path would require greater than electrification solely. #Fuel must be seen as a 2nd pillar together with electrification. Fuel is versatile, permits switching from coal, supplies safety of provides and can allow integration of renewables.” mentioned Daybreak Summers.#Gas4future pic.twitter.com/nYHiu3XDgT
— IOGP Europe (@IOGP_EU) October 14, 2021
Most of the firms within the teams DeSmog analysed are members of the Worldwide Fuel Union, a worldwide foyer that has additionally emphasised vitality safety for the reason that Ukraine invasion, based on an evaluation revealed by InfluenceMap in December.
Shell, BP, and TotalEnergies have additionally communicated higher “patriotism” of their post-invasion social media posts by specializing in elements together with vitality safety and vitality independence, based on a examine revealed in November by analysis group Strong Sustainability Analysis.
“To promote imported fuel infrastructure in Europe as an vitality safety thought is senseless,” mentioned Kingsmill Bond, an vitality strategist at RMI, an vitality suppose tank. “There are actually superior, cheaper, and home low-carbon options obtainable, and they’ll get cheaper over time. Fuel won’t.”
Italy Pushes the Fuel Pedal
EU international locations that have been closely depending on Russia for provides, reminiscent of Germany and Italy, have pushed arduous for brand spanking new fuel imports and infrastructure.
The Italian authorities has signed 11 fuel provide offers with exporting international locations — greater than every other EU nation previously 12 months — based on knowledge compiled by the European Council on International Relations.
Researcher Lorenzo Mario Pastore and colleagues on the College of Sapienza in Rome revealed a examine exhibiting that it might be cheaper for Italy to make use of vitality effectivity and renewables to scale back fuel consumption, fairly than discover new fossil gasoline sources.
Drought has underscored Italy’s vulnerability to local weather impacts, with Venice canals operating dry and lakes and rivers in Northern Italy considerably under their normal degree.
However, Italy’s authorities has struck fuel agreements with Algeria, Libya, and different African international locations for the reason that Ukraine invasion; invested in two LNG import terminals; and, in November, accepted authorities funding for drilling of “Italian fuel” within the Adriatic.
“Within the face of rising stress, the Italian authorities has not taken the chance to decarbonize its vitality combine with low-cost renewables however has, in reality, been pursuing a coverage of substituting fuel with different fuel,” wrote Luka Vasilj, a coverage analyst at Local weather Analytics, in an article revealed by Italian local weather suppose tank Ecco.
Oil and fuel firm Eni and pipeline operator Snam have each sought to justify new investments when it comes to vitality safety.
“We now have an issue of vitality safety,” Eni Chief Govt Claudio DeScalzi instructed a convention name with monetary analysts three weeks after the Ukraine invasion. “What we want now, particularly these days for Europe, is fuel.”
DeScalzi and the chief government of pipeline operator Snam have since advocated for a rise in oil and fuel investments in Africa, InfluenceMap has discovered. In the meantime, final Might, Snam argued that Italy might place itself as a European fuel hub to counter “the emergency” risk to fuel provides within the quick time period — and increase vitality safety in the long run.
Snam bolstered the message in a sequence of Fb and Instagram adverts, based on DeSmog’s evaluation. After the invasion, the corporate paid the platforms’ guardian firm Meta between 1,800-2,100 euros for 3 adverts that mentioned vitality safety, or promoted Snam’s position in guaranteeing steady provides. These adverts made greater than two million impressions throughout Italy.
Eni and Snam didn’t reply to requests for remark.
The appropriate-wing coalition authorities of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who gained snap elections in September, has additionally justified new fuel initiatives when it comes to vitality safety.
In a transfer indicative of the nation’s modified priorities, Meloni’s authorities has reorganised what had been the Ministry of Ecological Transition, liable for environmental safety, into a brand new entity: the Ministry of the Setting and Power Safety.
“Power safety has at all times been a mantra to justify fuel import infrastructure,” mentioned Alessandro Runci, public finance and multinationals campaigner at Italy-based advocacy group ReCommon. “Because the invasion, it has grow to be a trump card.”
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This story is a part of a DeSmog sequence on the affect wielded by the fuel foyer in Europe and was developed with the help of Journalismfund.eu