The EU relies on energy from Gazprom. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

As we rely on Russia and the Middle East for energy, Nato must face the energy security challenge

Currently, we depend on both Russia and the Middle East for much of our energy; the Nato summit's priority should be to tackle the energy security challenge.

For the first half of my career in the Royal Navy Nato’s main role was as a counter to Soviet expansionism, the Cold War a very real and present danger.

With the end of the stand-off 25 years ago, with military budgets falling and with less political and public appetite for military confrontation, the organisation was beginning to look irrelevant to today’s world, with questions being asked about its role.

But now, as the Nato summit is in Wales this week, the organisation is facing a renewed challenge on its Eastern border from an increasingly belligerent Russia – perhaps heralding a re-boot in Russian expansionism. Further afield, the threat of Islamic State and continuing instability in the Middle East cannot be ignored.

Currently, we depend on both Russia and the Middle East for much of our energy. Recent events serve to highlight the vulnerability of our energy supplies and the political straitjacket that results from our dependence on fuel imports from these volatile regions.

Without political stability in those regions, there can be no energy security at home.


The true cost of energy

The most immediate question is whether Russia might choose to use its energy exports to the EU as a political bargaining tool.

The threat that it might is being taken seriously, given reports this week that the EU is drafting emergency plans that would impose rationing on industry this winter, with serious economic repercussions.

Secure, sustainable, predictable and affordable supplies of energy are essential for economic growth and prosperity. A $20 dollar rise in the price of oil for two economic quarters is likely to reduce global GDP by 0.5 per cent.

Price volatility is an ongoing risk for all sectors of the economy. The armed forces consume large amounts of fuel. As I saw during my years of service, rapid and unexpected increases in the price of oil disrupt forces’ capacity, be it through less time at sea for training or fewer hours flown in helicopters and jets.

The economic and supply disruption risks are especially acute in those countries with a high dependency on imported energy like the EU, which imports 53 per cent of the energy that it consumes. The UK sources about 40 per cent of its coal imports from Russia.

The political corollary of dependence on energy from unstable and unsavoury regimes is that it constrains the response that the UK, Europe and Nato are able to give when faced with aggression. Whilst Germany has been active in calling for sanctions, its stance towards Russia is partly determined by the continuing need to keep Russian gas flowing.

Looking further ahead, how would we deal with a situation in which the Islamic State became established as a permanent presence, including control of oil and gas exports?


Cutting demand, cutting risk

So what is the solution?

The quickest and most effective form of energy security is to use less. Following the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan energy efficiency is embedded in military thinking on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only does it improve effectiveness but it reduces risk and saves money.

The same needs to happen with national energy security strategies. There needs to be a comprehensive programme of energy efficiency measures across all sectors; power, domestic and commercial buildings, and transport.

It also needs to be a demanding programme, for only then will the full benefits be delivered, including reduced energy imports but also wider gains from improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Most importantly it also makes economic sense for Europe to be at the forefront of energy efficiency measures as this will improve competitiveness with the US and China, which enjoy the benefits of scale and low cost energy.

EU ministers are currently debating whether to approve a target of improving energy efficiency by 30 per cent (from 2005 levels) by 2030. Analysis indicates that we can go to 40 per cent without economic penalty; Ukraine indicates that we must.

Alongside this, we must invest in domestic sources of energy – established ones such as wind, solar and nuclear, and new entrants like wave and tidal power. We cannot always rely on imported energy, but the tide will always come in and go out twice a day.

Nato can be a powerful forum for promoting this change, by explicitly articulating the threat we face. Efficiency and diversity in domestic energy generation are not issues that should be seen as simply a ‘green’ agenda. They are vital to our national and regional security.

Reducing energy consumption and investing in new forms of energy is a strategy that simultaneously defends against international volatility, improves our economy and liberates our response to aggression from the straitjacket of dependency.

The challenges posed by increasing geopolitical instability and the threats to our energy security are only likely to grow. Our leaders must act to reduce our vulnerability – starting this week in Wales.

Rear Admiral Morisetti is a former Commander, UK Maritime Forces and was the UK Government Climate and Energy Security Envoy from 2009-12. He sits on the Advisory Board of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit

Show Hide image

Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times