Conflict in Ukraine: how Europe’s gasoline foyer is exploiting fears over power safety

Europe’s gasoline trade has ramped up its messaging since Russia invaded Ukraine, DeSmog can reveal. It seems to be exploiting anxiousness over power safety to justify initiatives that threat locking Europe into long-term dependence on fossil fuels. 

4 of the trade’s foyer organisations started to submit many extra tweets portraying investments in gasoline and associated infrastructure as the important thing to safe power 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, gasoline storage, and infrastructure to import liquefied pure gasoline (LNG). Members embody oil majors reminiscent of Shell, BP, TotalEnergies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Eni, which have posted document income off the again of the power 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 gasoline over the rollout of renewables and power effectivity wanted to obtain the European Union’s local weather objectives.

“The gasoline trade desires us to consider that extra gasoline makes us safer, however extra gasoline results in extra local weather change which in actuality makes us much less safe,” mentioned Ben Franta, senior analysis fellow on the Oxford Sustainable Legislation Programme, who analyses authorized methods for holding fossil gas producers accountable for his or her local weather impacts. 

“The gasoline trade is utilizing at the moment’s information — the battle and the power disaster — to attempt to lock in additional gasoline for many years, though the trade is aware of it’ll be disastrous for the local weather and worldwide stability,” he mentioned.

‘Large Boon

The DeSmog evaluation of 1,075 tweets by the 4 foyer teams confirmed that posts emphasising power safety, or the prospect of an power scarcity or disaster, accounted for about three % of tweets within the 10 months previous to the invasion. That proportion shot up greater than tenfold after the battle began, with power 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 generally used hashtags reminiscent of #StrategicAutonomy or #SecurityOfSupply.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine final February 24 pushed gasoline 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 gasoline scrambling for options.

Local weather advocates acknowledged the necessity for emergency gasoline imports to bridge the hole as Europe quickly weaned itself off its dependence on Russia.

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However campaigners say the gasoline trade is exploiting a short lived 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 gasoline for many years to return.  

That prospect seems to contradict EU local weather targets, which indicate a discount in gasoline demand of at the very least 35 % in contrast with 2019 ranges by 2030. The emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane related to the initiatives can even undermine world local weather objectives, analysts warn. 

“Earlier than February 2022, it appeared that gasoline infrastructure initiatives have been beginning to flounder, gasoline was more and more being seen as a non-viable funding in Europe as a consequence of local weather targets, stranded asset threats, public protests,” mentioned Greig Aitken of analysis and advocacy group International Vitality Monitor. 

“The battle has been an enormous boon for the European gasoline trade, and the gasoline exporting international locations that the EU is now extra depending on,” Aitken mentioned.

Information visualisation by Youyou Zhou

The surge in new initiatives dangers producing over-capacity that can result in stranded belongings, Aitken warned. Because the invasion, the gasoline 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 International Vitality Monitor knowledge. Earlier than the battle, in contrast, the EU imported 155 bcm of gasoline in 2021 from Russia, together with LNG. 

James Weston, secretary-general of Eurogas, which represents dozens of European gasoline firms and several other U.S. LNG exporters, mentioned the group’s members had a “severe duty” to answer the power disaster on behalf of shoppers and trade.

“Subsequent winter goes to return 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 power stakeholders who wish to be a part of us in discourse about how we are able to finest handle the twin crises of local weather and power safety.” 

Fuel For Local weather referred DeSmog to its web site, which says that gasoline infrastructure would stay necessary by means of 2050 because the trade shifted to “renewable” and “low carbon” gases to fulfill the objectives of the 2015 Paris local weather settlement.

“Fuel for Local weather advocates a sensible mixture of electrical energy and gasoline in an built-in power system to ship an inexpensive 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 realize local weather neutrality.

Narrative Shift

The shift in the direction of power safety messaging was most marked in posts by Fuel Infrastructure Europe — which represents gasoline storage, pipeline, and LNG terminal operators — with virtually half of the group’s post-invasion tweets discussing power safety.

Inside the power safety messaging, DeSmog recognized three broad arguments utilized by the 4 foyer teams: considerations about winter power shortages; the necessity to shield shoppers; and assist for home gasoline manufacturing.

Winter-related messaging was commonest in Eurogas and Fuel Infrastructure Europe posts; client safety was referenced most ceaselessly in Eurogas posts; and assist for home gasoline 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 gasoline manufacturing.

The surge in power safety messaging occurred in opposition to a gentle drumbeat of tweets portraying gasoline as a clear power supply, and selling gasoline and hydrogen infrastructure as essential to the power transition, all through the 2 10 month-periods analysed on both aspect of the invasion. 

Phrases reminiscent of “low-carbon gasoline” or “renewable gasoline” — which critics say quantity to greenwashing since they downplay the trade’s local weather impression — appeared in tweets from numerous foyer teams.

The teams additionally portrayed a know-how often called carbon seize and storage, which traps CO2 emitted from industrial websites, and hydrogen, as options for offering “clear gasoline” and decarbonising the power system. 

Among the tweets additionally promoted renewable power. Campaigners say the gasoline trade usually seeks to foster the notion that gasoline and renewables are roughly equal by way of sustainability, and might work collectively in a decarbonized power system.

“The gasoline trade will advocate for renewables to advocate for gasoline alongside it,” mentioned Pascoe Sabido, researcher for the Brussels-based marketing campaign group Company Europe Observatory. “They’re saying ‘we wish all the pieces’ as a option to open a again door and maintain [gas] going.”

Lots of the firms within the teams DeSmog analysed are members of the Worldwide Fuel Union, a worldwide foyer that has additionally emphasised power 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 components together with power safety and power independence, based on a research revealed in November by analysis group Strong Sustainability Analysis.

“To promote imported gasoline infrastructure in Europe as an power safety thought is mindless,” mentioned Kingsmill Bond, an power strategist at RMI, an power assume tank. “There are actually superior, cheaper, and home low-carbon options accessible, and they’ll get cheaper over time. Fuel is not going to.”

Information visualisation by Youyou Zhou
Italy Pushes the Fuel Pedal

EU international locations that have been closely depending on Russia for provides, reminiscent of Germany and Italy, have pushed exhausting for brand new gasoline imports and infrastructure. 

The Italian authorities has signed 11 gasoline provide offers with exporting international locations — greater than some other EU nation previously 12 months — based on knowledge compiled by the European Council on Overseas Relations. 

Researcher Lorenzo Mario Pastore and colleagues on the College of Sapienza in Rome revealed a research exhibiting that it might be cheaper for Italy to make use of power effectivity and renewables to cut back gasoline consumption, fairly than discover new fossil gas sources.

Drought has underscored Italy’s vulnerability to local weather impacts, with Venice canals working dry and lakes and rivers in Northern Italy considerably under their standard degree. 

Nonetheless, Italy’s authorities has struck gasoline agreements with Algeria, Libya, and different African international locations for the reason that Ukraine invasion; invested in two LNG import terminals; and, in November, authorised authorities funding for drilling of “Italian gasoline” within the Adriatic.

“Within the face of rising strain, the Italian authorities has not taken the chance to decarbonize its power combine with low-cost renewables however has, the truth is, been pursuing a coverage of substituting gasoline with different gasoline,” wrote Luka Vasilj, a coverage analyst at Local weather Analytics, in an article revealed by Italian local weather assume tank Ecco. 

Oil and gasoline firm Eni and pipeline operator Snam have each sought to justify new investments by way of power safety.

“We now have an issue of power safety,” Eni Chief Government Claudio DeScalzi advised a convention name with monetary analysts three weeks after the Ukraine invasion. “What we want now, particularly these days for Europe, is gasoline.”

DeScalzi and the chief government of pipeline operator Snam have since advocated for a rise in oil and gasoline investments in Africa, InfluenceMap has discovered. In the meantime, final Might, Snam argued that Italy might place itself as a European gasoline hub to counter “the emergency” risk to gasoline provides within the brief time period — and enhance power safety in the long run.

Snam bolstered the message in a collection of Fb and Instagram adverts, based on DeSmog’s evaluation. After the invasion, the corporate paid the platforms’ dad or mum firm Meta between 1,800-2,100 euros for 3 adverts that mentioned power 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 fitting-wing coalition authorities of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who gained snap elections in September, has additionally justified new gasoline initiatives by way of power safety.

In a transfer indicative of the nation’s modified priorities, Meloni’s authorities has reorganised what had been the Ministry of Ecological Transition, accountable for environmental safety, into a brand new entity: the Ministry of the Atmosphere and Vitality Safety.

“Vitality safety has all the time been a mantra to justify gasoline import infrastructure,” mentioned Alessandro Runci, public finance and multinationals campaigner at Italy-based advocacy group ReCommon. “Because the invasion, it has develop into a trump card.” 

👉 Unique article on DeSmog
This story is a part of a DeSmog collection on the affect wielded by the gasoline foyer in Europe and was developed with the assist of 

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