He knew that US shale was a threat to him in two ways. One, because it meant that US natural gas would compete with his natural gas in Europe, and that’s what we’re seeing today. And secondly, this would really augment America’s position in the world and give it a kind of flexibility it didn’t have when it was importing 60% of its oil.
That’s the question that’s really weighing now because in terms of oil, there’s enough crude oil in the world. You have to move it around, but between strategic stocks, between demand being down in China, you can manage that. When you get into products like diesel, it gets harder. And then you’re going to the hardest thing with natural gas, and that is exactly as you go into the winter. So, the big question now is can they fill storage so that they can get through the winter, and, by the way, not only stay warm, but keep industry operating. And I think we can say that Putin made a series of decisions which kind of were irrational -- that his army was really good, that Ukraine wouldn’t be able to resist, that the US had just gone through getting out of Afghanistan and was deeply divided, that Europe was so dependent on his energy that they would say, ‘OK, this is terrible, but life goes on.’ And none of that happened.
But I think he’s still calculating. And he said that ultimately this energy disruption -- and we are in a huge disruption of energy markets -- would be such a big threat to the European economy that the coalition that now exists would fall apart. I think that’s his wager right now. And the Achilles heel is what you pointed to: what happens as Europe goes into the fall and winter. And we’ve had at least one German, very prominent industrialist, who said, ‘This is too dangerous for the European economy. We should negotiate something with Putin.’
We are in a market lull for European natural gas prices as we head into summer and lower heating demand. The price of European gas (Netherlands) is down from a peak of €140 in December to €74 today. The UK price has been much more volatile and is down from a March high of £800 to £138.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top