Can Europe quit Russian fossil fuel by next winter?

Does the Russian war in Ukraine upend the idea that natural gas can be a bridge fuel?

Europe imports about 45% of its natural gas from Russia. As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, pressure is mounting for Europe to wean itself off Russian energy as quickly as possible. European sanctions against Russia have thus far excluded the energy trade, meaning that European purchases of oil and gas — which fund about 40% of Russia’s federal budget — are in effect helping to fund the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

So how could Europe eliminate the import of Russian fossil fuels?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Princeton energy professor Jesse Jenkins about how to do it. The European Union’s current plan is to cut its imports of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year. Jesse’s energy-modeling team is working on a plan to cut 100% of Russian energy imports by October 1.

Shayle and Jesse explore the immediate impact of the war in Ukraine on energy markets and the ripple effects on other domains such as fertilizer, food and carbon markets. 

Then they discuss the tools Europe and its allies have at their disposal in the short term, such as switching from gas to coal, ramping up heat pump installations and extending the operation of nuclear plants. They also examine a possible path for the U.S.: decreasing domestic use of fossil fuels while increasing exports of coal and liquid natural gas to Europe. 

Finally, they consider how this rapid shift in Europe could accelerate the energy transition in the long term.

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