Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula has drawn new attention to Europe's reliance on energy supplies from Russia, particularly for natural gas. Lacking the means to force Russia's president to back down, US politicians and leading newspapers have latched onto the idea of exporting shale gas to reduce the EU's vulnerability to an accidental or intentional disruption of these supplies. The efficacy of this strategy depends on more than logistics and the timing of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.
The European Union is expected to import 15.5 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day of natural gas from Russia this year, roughly half of which would normally be transported by pipelines passing through Ukraine. Worries about the security of these supplies in the current crisis are compounded by Europe's increasing reliance on gas imports from all sources.
While EU gas consumption, based on the union's 28 current member countries, has been essentially flat over the last decade, its production has declined by more than a third, as shown in the chart below. As of the end of 2012, EU self-sufficiency in gas stood at just 35%. The widening of the gap between EU gas demand and production bears a close resemblance to the situation in which the US found itself with regard to crude oil prior to the shale revolution, and it is the main source of Europe's vulnerability in natural gas.