Few positive things can come out of a war. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is no exception, although it does leave Spain with an enviable geopolitical opportunity, insofar as it could become one of the largest natural gas deposits on the Old Continent.
It is true that our country does not have the capacity to extract natural gas. At least, not without resorting to technologies reviled decades ago by the most ideological political positions, such as hydraulic fracturing. But we still have the ability to store up to 40% of the gas the EU imports from Russiaas long as we could bring it from Algeria.
This week, however, we learned that our energy partner preferred to conclude an agreement with Italy to increase the export of natural gas to Europe instead of doing it via Spain. Specifically, Algeria has pledged to send 9 billion cubic meters via Italy and from 2023 it will triple the gas supply of the transalpine country. In addition, he announced that he had decided to maintain his price for all customers… except for Spain. What could have happened?
This situation arises first (and mainly) from a disastrous foreign policy. The Spanish government decided, in May 2021, receive the leader of the Polisario Front in a hospital in Logroño. This decision was opaque and strange for everyone, but above all it upset Morocco, which reacted with a wave of immigration not seen for decades. Someone in Moncloa must have thought that just a year later, the solution to an absurd decision by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was…another absurd decision that benefits the other party.
And that’s how it happened change of position of the Sahara and, of course, the consequent reaction of the Algerian Polisario Front. It’s not for me to make value judgments on foreign policy, but the impact on our country’s natural gas supply was obvious, and only heavy dependence and long-term contracts could prevent a cut. total supply.
What could not be avoided is what happened: a price increase for Spain and change of strategic partnersimply because we are no longer reliable. And, as soon as a partner ceases to be reliable, it becomes a necessary evil which must be gradually rid of. For those of you wondering what a “necessary evil” is, remember your dentist: someone you hang out with when you have no other choice and who you rarely have fond memories of. . Neither you nor I can do without our dentist, but Algeria, no doubt, will try to reduce natural gas shipments to Spain in the years to come thanks to agreements with other countries.
The second element explaining the situation in Italy is the overcapacity of the gas pipelines which crossed its territory. In Spain, with the necessary infrastructure, an additional 8,000 million cubic meters could come, in Italy, 41,000; and to the rest of the world, 75,000 cubic meters. This means that a good part of the order that Italy has made official could have transited through our countryyes, but nothing more. And, above all, nothing about what will happen in the years to come.
Now, of course, nobody thinks that new infrastructures are going to be built in our country to transport this natural gas. Neither Algeria, nor probably a large part of the national political scene, wants it.
Our politicians are very concerned about the environment. So much so that they oppose splitting in the homeland while imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States are exploding, which has become an energy exporting country thanks to the fact that it has been exploiting this technology since 2008.
So much so that this year, for the first time, they have become our main supplier of gas in 2022 (34% of energy imports), despite the fact that its transport by LNG carriers is much more expensive, while imports of Algeria represents 24% of the natural gas in Spain and it stops sending LNG tankers to our country.
Now come months of stability in the energy markets. Winter is gradually falling behind, which means less natural gas consumption for heating. In addition, the months of more sun and air are approaching and therefore the natural gas requirements of combined cycle power plants are also reduced. But make no mistake about it: it is cyclical and above all prices will continue to be significantly higher than before this crisis. All this without taking into account the progressive increase in prices to which we Spaniards will be subjected as a result of the disastrous foreign policy decisions of our government.
Neither the evolution of prices nor the situation of energy markets are the consequence of elements foreign to our national policy. There are comparisons with other countries and, above all, the decisions made by the officers concerned in the new international context. But as long as we continue from misdiagnoses, we will continue to make decisions that relegate us to the international caboose in economic matters and, therefore, of global relevance. This, not to mention the difficulties that await ordinary citizens. This year, against all expectations, the supply of gas and electricity was guaranteed, although more expensive. I have doubts about what will happen next year, especially if we continue like this.