Originally published in Foreign Policy, February 1, 2023.
Almost one year after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Moscow’s natural gas exports to Europe have declined by well over half due to sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, lower European purchases, and Moscow’s throttling of deliveries in retaliation for Western support of Ukraine. Natural gas is a key energy source for home and industrial heating, and it serves as a feedstock for chemical production. This makes it critical for the manufacture of fertilizer, cement, steel, glass, and many other products. It is also widely used to generate electricity—gas-fired power plants account for 34 percent of electricity generation in Europe in 2021 (compared to 38 percent in the United States).
In response to the loss of Russian supply, European countries have binged on every available source of natural gas, amassing large stockpiles. With supplies by pipeline from Russia down sharply, Europe shifted much of its demand to liquefied natural gas (LNG) transported by ships from around the world. As a result, by the middle of 2022—the peak of the gas storage filling season—the global price of LNG had increased by 1,900 percent from a low during the pandemic two years prior.
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