Will the European Energy Crisis Turn into a Global One?

In a globalized world, the energy crisis at the European level is difficult to contain, especially in the context of damaged supply chains and a rush to cut investment in fossil fuels.

In a report published by the “oil price” website, writer Irina Slav says that the energy crisis that began in Europe – earlier this month – is now on its way to reach the United States.

Currently, US gas exporters are enjoying a significant increase in demand from Asia and Europe due to the recovery of economic activity and the rising demand for electricity.

According to a recent report by the British Financial Times, there is a real bidding war for US LNG shipments between Asian and European buyers.

Coal exports also rose, especially after a political dispute that made China refrain from importing Australian coal, but Argos – one of the agencies approved by “OPEC” to estimate the organization’s production per month – reported earlier this month that Supplies are starting to dwindle.

Reports also indicated that US coke exports declined last July by up to 20.3% on a monthly basis compared to June, stressing that supply was limited due to lack of funding and lack of employment in many industries due to the epidemic.

According to the author, this is good news for US fossil fuel producers, but it could become bad news as winter approaches. And Jinju Lee wrote in the American Wall Street Journal – earlier this week – that high energy prices may constitute an imminent crisis in the United States.

Jinju Lee was based on data showing that the replenishment of gas stocks was lower than normal rates during this season, and that the gas stored in early September was 7.4% less than the average of the past five years.

Coal stocks have also decreased due to the increase in exports, and thermal coal prices have increased 3 times from what they were a year ago. According to Energy Information Administration data, US coal stocks may fall to less than half of last year’s stock levels by the end of the year.

The writer stresses that developments in Europe can be considered a prelude to what may happen in America, as the United States is considered more independent in the field of energy than the United Kingdom. However, the increase in export rates raises concerns, which requires government intervention to get gas producers to reduce exports.

In a sign of the scale of the crisis, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America – an organization representing companies producing chemicals and foodstuffs – asked the Department of Energy to place restrictions on liquefied natural gas exports, in order to avoid price hikes and gas shortages during the winter season.

Is the US government interfering?

Opinions seem to differ on whether the rise in LNG exports is harming American consumers, but the truth – according to the author – is that gas prices are already double what they were a year ago.

According to the International Energy Credit Association, oil prices are not high enough to stimulate increased production of natural gas, and in order to store enough gas for the winter, the US government must impose a reduction in exports.

But liquefied natural gas producers stand against these decisions, as the Executive Director of the LNG Center confirmed – in a statement to Reuters – that most of the liquefied natural gas exports are shipped under long-term fixed-price contracts, and have nothing to do with record gas prices and their movements.

“LNG buyers – who compete for natural gas with American consumers – are state-owned companies and facilities controlled by foreign governments at an automatic cost, and US manufacturers cannot compete with them on prices,” Paul Sisio, president of the International Energy Credit Association, told Reuters.

In China, the main problem now appears to be coal, not gas, and a recent Bloomberg report said that coal power plant operators in China are struggling to buy enough coal to power their plants, and some are forced to shut down due to insufficient coal supplies.

However, the coal crisis may increase demand for gas to ensure enough electricity and heating for the winter, which in turn will exacerbate the gap between supply and demand on a global scale.

The European energy crisis may extend to other regions, with the progress of plans by the Russian company “Gazprom” to implement the “Nord Stream 2” project approved by Germany.

Christopher Looney, who is in charge of commodity strategies at Royal Bank, said it was still unclear how much prices would rise due to the gap between supply and demand, expressing fears that things could get worse this winter.