RL33636 - The European Union's Energy Security Challenges
30-Jan-2008; Paul Belkin; 28 p.
Update: Previous releases:
May 7, 2007
January 26, 2007
September 11, 2006
Abstract: Recent increases in energy prices and a steady escalation in global energy demand — expected to rise by nearly 60% over the next 20 years — have led U.S. policy-makers to engage in a wide ranging debate over how best to address the country’s future energy requirements. Similarly, energy security has become a policy priority for the European Union (EU) and its 27 member states. The EU imports about 50% of its energy needs. Barring significant changes, the European Commission expects this figure to rise to 65% by 2030. About half of the EU’s natural gas imports and 30% of its imported oil come from Russia. Europe’s growing dependence on Russian energy, and long-term energy agreements between Russian firms and some European governments have fueled speculation that Moscow is using the “energy weapon” to try to influence European foreign and economic policy.
The EU has traditionally exerted little if any influence over individual member state energy policy. However, in March 2007, in the face of increasing concern about Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, and growing public pressure to address global climate change, EU member states agreed to forge an “Energy Policy for Europe.” They have agreed on a set of EU-wide targets — some legally binding — to increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce carbon emissions. However, member states continue to pursue divergent external energy policies, particularly toward Russia, and some European countries remain reluctant to cede national control over energy markets.
The United States and Europe have steadily broadened the transatlantic energy dialogue to include joint promotion of collective energy security, energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. At the April 2007 U.S.-EU summit, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic agreed to advance cooperation to develop alternative and renewable energy technologies. However, U.S. officials have expressed concern at some European member states’ unwillingness to exert more pressure on Russia to comply with EU market principles. On the other hand, European leaders appear increasingly frustrated with U.S. reluctance to pursue binding multilateral regulatory frameworks to reduce carbon emissions and promote energy efficiency.
Members of Congress have expressed an interest in efforts to increase European energy security, particularly vis-a-vis Russia. In the first session of the 110th Congress, committees held hearings that touched on the issue of European energy dependence on Russia, and on European efforts to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use. The second session of the 110th Congress may also hold hearings and pursue legislation on various aspects of EU energy policy.
This report examines some of Europe’s critical energy security challenges and EU efforts to coordinate a common European energy strategy. It also includes an overview of broader transatlantic energy security cooperation and will be updated as needed. For additional information, see CRS Report RL34261, Russian Energy Policy Toward Neighboring Countries, by Steven Woehrel, and CRS Report RS22409, NATO and Energy Security, by Paul Gallis.