More War on the Boers

This past summer we reported on the tensions between the farmers of the Netherlands and that nation's government. The latter, at the behest of the E.U., had enacted various overweening environmentalist regulations, including a plan to slash the emission of gases like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50 percent by the end of this decade. These regulations were aimed squarely at farming, which is a sizable portion of the Dutch economy. They've already implemented nitrogen licenses, which are required for any new activity -- including the expansion of existing farms -- which emit the gas, and are pushing significant livestock reductions.

Dutch farmers have been understandably upset at these impositions, feeling that their livelihood has been unjustly targeted. They've undertaken mass protests, including blocking agricultural distribution centers and dumping milk rather then sending it to market, to force the country to acknowledge what life without their produce is like. In rowdier moments they've even sprayed manure on highways and used tractors to "slow-walk" roads, leading recently to what The Telegraph referred to as "the worst rush hour in Dutch history with 700 miles of jams at its peak."

Unfortunately the government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has refused to change course. It has recently unveiled plans to "buy and close down up to 3,000 farms near environmentally sensitive areas." They insist that farmers will be well-remunerated, and unconfirmed reports suggest the government's purchase price will be around 120 percent of the value of the farms in question. One thing that is confirmed, however, is that they're not asking:

“There is no better offer coming,” Christianne van der Wal, nitrogen minister, told MPs on Friday. She said compulsory purchases would be made with “pain in the heart” if necessary.

It is worth pointing out the characteristic utopianism of environmentalist public policy at play here. For one thing, these anti-farming mandates come at a time when the war in Ukraine has created significant disruption in the global food supply. In fact, as The Scroll's Clayton Fox pointed out, increased food insecurity is something that the Dutch government has recently acknowledged in another context:

On Saturday, in a jaw-droppingly ironic video commemorating the Holodomor, Stalin’s deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933, Prime Minister Rutte committed $4.1 million to the World Food Programme, saying that the Netherlands was glad to support not only countries in need of food, but also Ukrainian farmers. It appears that the Netherlands is subsidizing beleaguered Ukrainian farmers while bribing their own to shut down forever.

Has it never occurred to him that "countries in need of food" might benefit even more from an increase in the supply of food? Money is nice and all, but you can't eat it.

But there's another aspect of Leftist utopian tendencies that this lays bare -- their disdain for their own nation, its customs, and its people. The Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States. Anyone who has spent time with farmers knows that the work is more than a job for them, and that is especially true for Dutch farmers, who have tended to carry the way of life with them wherever they go. As we wrote in our last post,

The Dutch are proud of their farming prowess, and it lives on even when they've left home. The United States and Canada are home to scores of ethnically Dutch farmers whose families made their way west to escape the great wars of the 20th century, and much of modern South Africa was built by the Dutch farmers, or Boers, who arrived there in the 17th century. Farming is in their blood.

But Mark Rutte and the E.U. want that way of life to come to an end. It is as shameful as it is short-sighted.

The Coming Struggle to Stay Warm

One of the first columns I wrote for The Pipeline almost three years ago employed the metaphor of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object to forecast the likely consequences of Green politics. The irresistible force was the imposition of a policy of Net-Zero carbon emissions upon the populations of the West, in particular those of Anglosphere, and the immovable object was the democratic electorates of these countries.

It might take time, I argued, but when the voters found that Green Deals and such meant higher energy prices, higher taxes, immiseration of the less well-off, and harshly puritan lifestyles for the rest of us, an almighty smash-up would ensue.

And so it has. Indeed, the smash-up has come sooner than I expected, namely this year, and it will almost certainly be harsher because the negative impact of Net-Zero has been aggravated by the Russo-Ukraine war and sanctions adopted by the U.S. and the E.U. in response to it.

To stop train, pull handle. But think first.

What I didn’t expect, however, is that the smash-up would take place in slow-motion. But that is what’s happening.

Almost wherever you look, there’s some not-very-important story that tips you off to a subterranean explosion whose full impact won’t be properly felt for a while. The effect is something like the delayed impact of depth charges or deadpan jokes.

Here, for instance, is the London Daily Telegraph telling us that the Brits will be wearing new styles of underwear this winter—and not because they’re hoping for a more exotic sex-life:

Households are stockpiling thermal underwear to avoid turning on the heating this winter as energy bills spiral. John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store chain, said shoppers had rushed to buy warmer clothes in recent weeks, with sales of winter thermals having doubled last week compared to a week earlier. Sales of dressing gowns are up 76pc compared to last year.

That’s the precautionary principle reduced to the bare essentials. Like everyone else in the northern hemisphere, ordinary Brits are expecting a chilly winter this year because of the following factors (which didn't start with Mr. Putin’s war); Like most Western governments, the U.K. powers-that-be have neglected to invest enough in energy security because they quite consciously preferred to invest in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. That is the orthodoxy of Net-Zero (sometimes enforced by treaties) in E.U. countries such as Germany, non-E.U. countries like Britain, and the U.S.

It’s a massive enterprise because until recently fossil fuels provided more than 85 percent of total energy to even the most technically advanced economies. In pursuit of this vision of a future of all-renewable energy, Germany has shut down almost all its nuclear power stations, keeps equivocating over whether the shut down the few remaining ones, and ends up relying on “dirty coal” now that cheap Russian energy is as unreliable as "renewables."

California, dreaming...

Over the Pond the Biden administration has been refusing to license oil-and-gas explorations on federal land with the embarrassing result that it has to import oil from Venezuela. And the U.K. government too has banned “fracking” that would exploit the nation's plentiful reserves of natural gas. As a result almost all of these countries are facing the risk of energy shortfalls to the point at which energy “blackouts” and rationing are seriously entertained by utilities and regulators if the winter is severe. California too.

Moreover, the costs of transitioning to renewables are not only high, they are rising. The International Energy Agency has just revised its estimate of the investment needed to limit global temperatures to meet the Net-Zero target under the Paris Accords upwards. That will now rise from the 390 billion dollars annually today to 1.3 trillion dollars a year between now and 2030. If met, those targets would eliminate emissions from the energy sector by 2035 in the advanced world and by 2040 in developing countries. But they are unlikely to be met. On present trends Net-Zero won’t be achieved until 2060—and present trends look too optimistic in the light of the present energy crisis.

The upshot of which is that almost all the West’s governments face slightly different versions of two serious problems: uncertain energy supplies, and existing high indebtedness.

Take energy supplies first. Germany is facing a serious crisis of its fundamental economic model in the post-Ukraine world, Its two foundations were exporting cars to China and importing cheap energy from Russia. For the foreseeable future, neither now looks like a reliable prospect or even a possible one. Berlin must now struggle to replace the Russian energy half-forbidden by the sanctions it supports diplomatically.

Artifacts of an ancient civilization, if Greens get their way.

Similarly, because Britain neglected nuclear investment—its target of 25 percent of energy from nuclear power stations will be reached in 2050!—the country is heavily dependent on imported natural gas which it needs to solve the renewables’ “intermittency problem”: there are days when the wind doesn’t blow nor the sun shine. As Andrew Stuttaford points out, that makes the earlier decision of the U.K. government to close down its biggest natural gas storage capacity an especially shortsighted one. Even the French, who sensibly went nuclear in a big way in the 1970s, now have to spend on repairs and modernization.

What of the second aspect of the crisis: overspending? Two sorts of spending need to be financed here—that for Net-Zero, and that to finance the energy security national governments have neglected. Unfortunately, however necessary they are, they come on top of the massive sums of money that the same governments have already spent during the Covid-19 pandemic on locking down their economies and paying their people to stay at home. That backlog of indebtedness explains why the financial markets are becoming nervous of lending money to governments that don’t make financial responsibility their top priority. Interest rates are rising again in response to rising inflation, and that's a problem for governments that want to borrow money.

We saw that very recently when the British government fell because the markets thought it was adopting a cavalier attitude to debt. That impression was both exaggerated--the U.K.’s national debt as a percentage of GDP is one of the lowest in Europe--and largely the result of rash but trivial political misjudgments by ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. All the same, the market brought them down because they were planning to add to an already high total of government spending.

Long johns, here we come.

When that happens, every spending program becomes the enemy of every other program. If restoring energy security becomes a priority for governments, then spending on Net-Zero will—and should—come under pressure. After all, Britain's short financial crisis became a political one in part because it was leading to a rise in mortgage payments. Like rising sales of warm thermal underwear, rising mortgage payments are another symptom of the price that the Brits will be paying for ill-judged energy policies. Voters' shoes are beginning to pinch; the immovable object is beginning to stiffen.

Of course, the irresistible force (in the form of support for Net-Zero from an alliance of the establishment and radical Green anarchists) has neither vanished nor much diminished. At almost every stage it has objected to policies that looked likely to prioritize energy security over the transition to renewables. With the arrival of a new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, it has been flexing its muscles to warn him that it will tolerate no lifting of the ban on fracking that the doomed Liz Truss tried to bring about. Net-Zero is an obstruction to restoring the energy security that it undermined in the first place. The circle closes.

My impression is that Sunak is taking his time to assess what Leonid Brezhnev used to call “the correlation of forces.” On the one hand, he has said that he will keep the ban on fracking unless evidence appears that suggests it is not dangerous to the environment; on the other, he has decided not to attend the U.N.’s COP 27 Climate Summit on the grounds that, in effect, he’s got more important things to do in London. My translation: he doesn’t want to attend and be trapped into making commitments on Net-Zero that might later be inconvenient to his overall energy and budgetary policies.

He may also think that Winter when the snow falls and Britain’s bedrooms freeze will be time also when the irresistible force of Net-Zero becomes much less irresistible and the immovable object of voter resistance much more resistant. And irremovable.

The Utter Folly of European 'Climate Policy'

Europeans will starve, go hungry and be jobless in large numbers unless the European Union and national politicians do an about-face on climate policy. The United States is not far behind, although has more tools to displace failed leaders than do people under the thumb of the European Union. This winter is but a taste of things to come.

An extensive analysis—50 points—of the folly of "climate policy" is found at wattsupwiththat.com; in sum it evinces there is no “climate emergency,” the goal of Net-Zero by 2050 is “delusional,” neither warranted, feasible, nor politically possible and would be so costly it would “drive a 33 percent average reduction in all government spending on health, housing, education, social welfare, police, climate adaptation, defense, social justice, etc.” As the measurable big decrease in global economic output during the pandemic lockdowns established, slashing living standards will not result in a “measurable decrease atmospheric CO2.” The only feasible means to phase out fossil fuels are technological advances, which means the shift cannot be mandated by government and of necessity the shift will be slow.

In any event, nothing the West can do changes the fact that during the next quarter century “over 80 percent of all increased global emissions” will occur in Asia. Moreover, for decades to come, “Asia, South America, and Africa “will represent over 90 percent of future increases in energy consumption.” Any effort must be global, not nation-by-nation. It’s simply not a first-world issue, and it’s irrational to pretend otherwise.

Women's work.

Also irrational is the pretense that we can limit energy use. We need it for everything and the demand is growing. It may be a surprise to learn that “Global smart phone production uses 15 percent more energy as the automotive industry.... the Cloud uses twice a much electricity worldwide as all of Japan.” This would surely set back on their heels the anti-fossil fuel crowd gathered everywhere in clothes manufactured from petroleum-based materials and coordinating their activities by iPhones, if only someone told them. 

In the meantime, this winter Europeans are getting to see first hand the folly of the "climate change" cult thinking of the European Union and its national leaders. They are already seeing food and energy shortages and the beginning of deindustrialization. In a series of tweets Alexander Stahel, CIO of a Swiss investment management firm, sets out a number of developments in various European countries, to flesh out what news summaries do not—the desperate near- and long-term consequences of Europe’s “gigantic structural” problem. Here are a few examples.

As prices increase, along with scarce food, limited transport options, and winter heating, it’s easy to see why unrest in Europe is growing. The Yellow Vests in France have been demonstrating against, inter alia, rising fuel costs and austerity measures for almost four years. (The most recent French complaint about the emissions mandates involve the E.U.’s ban on an insecticide needed to deal with a beetle that devastates mustard plants.)

In the Netherlands, farmers have been protesting and blocking roads with their tractors for almost three years because of proposals to limit industrial fodder and livestock production to lower emissions from the nitrogen cycle. More recently, protests have against energy shortages have cropped up in Belgium where thousands of people have been protesting against the huge rise in the cost of living, driving “rising food prices, startling energy bills and frustration with politicians and employers.”

And then there’s Italy, where conservative firebrand Giorgia Meloni is poised to occupy the prime minister’s office after the recent elections saw her Brothers of Italy party surge to power. Meloni is more concerned with battling Europe's coming energy crisis than she is with "climate change," and has called for the EU. member states to work together to solve the problem before the problem solves them: "We need a common solution at the European level to help firms and families," she said in a statement. "No member state can offer effective and long term solutions on its own." Meloni's position on "climate change" already has the Left terrified, and its slander machine going full blast:

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neo-fascist, right-wing populist Brothers of Italy party, is poised to become Italy’s first woman prime minister. This is as much a victory for feminism as Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in the UK, which is to say that it is no victory at all. Meloni boasts the familiar spate of ultra-conservative views with a few terrifying twists: not only has she called Mussolini a “good politician,” she also aligns herself with the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. While her fascist leanings and the threats her ascent poses to human rights have been widely discussed, Meloni’s stance on environmental issues has been left relatively uninterrogated... it seems that Italy’s next government will be pursuing the promise of nuclear power and leaning into domestic natural gas extraction. Renewable energy forms, like solar and wind, are decidedly absent from the agenda. Meloni’s party has also criticised the EU’s ban on combustion engine cars by 2035 as “a sensational own-goal” and is likely to support junior coalition partner Matteo Salvini’s call for an Italian referendum to overturn the decision.

Also women's work.

Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, threatened the Meloni coalition with "consequences" if it “veers from democracy,” which is rather ironic as there’s nothing particularly democratic about the Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, both of which are self-perpetuating sclerotic bureaucracies. Her threat reminds that the Commission has called upon the Union’s council to suspend 7.5 billion Euros from Hungary for “corruption.” Poland has said it will oppose such sanctions and criticized Von der Leyen’s not so veiled threats as did several Italian political leaders.

I don’t know if the present energy crisis will be enough to lead more countries to exit the European Union, which has, as we saw with Brexit, lots of tools to rein in unwilling members from so doing, but it just might if the winter is cold enough and the E.U. continues its suicidal foolishness and arrogance.

How the World Really Works

Some very odd things are happening in the modern world of government and politics that don’t conform to democratic theory. I’m thinking, for instance, of the mass protests against anti-Covid regulations in cities across France, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, the United States, and in Canada without much attention from the international media; the brutally violent police tactics used against protesters in most of these cities, especially  farmers in Holland and car-owners (the Gilets Jaunes) in France, again with not much media coverage; the attempts by the Canadian government to crush the truckers’ parking protest in Ottawa by such extraordinary (and extra-legal) methods as seizing the bank accounts of people who wanted to help them financially; the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government because it had instituted agricultural policies banning the use of fertilizers on the advice of the World Economic Forum that led to crop failures and widespread hunger; and the signing of a memorandum of understanding on future cooperation between the United Nations and the aforementioned W.E.F. which is little more officially than a conference of corporate CEOs (though it boasts of planting its former interns in high government positions around the world).

In short, though I haven't weakened yet, I'm tempted to become a conspiracy theorist.

The mere existence of the W.E.F., an international conference of billionaires and CEOs who fly in annually to a remote Alpine resort to discuss how the world should be governed, to which prime ministers, presidents, and “opinion formers” are flattered to be invited, arouses my curiosity. It sounds (and acts) like a sinister conspiracy in a dystopian novel by writers as various as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley, or like Karl Marx’s “executive committee of the bourgeoisie.” Yet it is deeply respectable—it signs MoU’s with the U.N. for heavens sake!—and is seen as mildly and desirably progressive. Moreover, because it brings together “top people” from all enterprises and institutions, its policy prescriptions have an almost automatic credibility rooted in a general expectation that the W.E.F. network will get these things done. Next step: they’re inevitable!

But the sad (or cheering) fact is that almost all its “big projects”—the euro, open borders, anti-Covid lockdowns, vaccine mandates—have crashed upon launching. Its motto is “global problems require global solutions” but a better one would be “Ah well, back to the drawing board.”

Even so we shouldn’t exaggerate the independent power of the W.E.F. It exercises some power and more influence as the leading edge of the large overall institutional bureaucracy—including N.G.O.s, transnational bodies such as the European Union, multi-national corporations, and governments in whole or in part—that goes under the name of “global governance.” John Fonte, the Hudson Institute scholar, has revealed in detail how global governance really works: it proceeds issue by issue by making international treaties on everything from trade to transgenderism that commit the signatory governments to implement them in domestic law but that were negotiated secretively in a wilderness of committees in Brussels or New York and have never been the subjects of serious democratic debate.

Open covenants, openly arrived at... right.

We then enjoy the spectacle of government ministers being unable to explain why they are passing laws which they personally dislike as well as fear that the electorate won’t stand for them. Such treaties empower the bureaucrats who negotiated them, the corporations that influenced their drafting, the N.G.O.s that go to court to compel governments to implement them, and the courts that will finally interpret them. They disempower the voters, their elected representatives, the government ministers who have to tailor their policies to fit the undemocratic straitjacket of the treaty. And they lead eventually to a clash between the voters and the global governance bureaucracy.

Under global governance the democratic process becomes a play in which the democrats speak lines written by non-accountable global governance bureaucrats. It ends in a series of clashes and crises like those cited above. And whether or not those who protest are indulged or crushed depends in part on whether their demos and lawsuits are aimed at obstructing the global governance agenda or advancing it. The Dutch farmers trying to save their land from Net-Zero environmental regulations enshrined in treaties get crushed; the Extinction Rebellion protesters using violence and property destruction to ensure the enforcement of such property seizures are joined by dancing policemen at jolly street parties.

Democracy in these circumstances becomes a façade for authoritarian rule by remote bureaucracies. Writing in Quadrant earlier this year, I argued that this had happened in response to Covid-19 in early 2020 when an international bureaucratic consensus drove governments to impose massive restrictions without proper debate:

Governments panicked, cast aside their earlier pandemic planning based on protecting vulnerable groups, and adopted approaches to suppress the virus by locking down the entire society. This was the wrong approach and maximized economic problems. Almost all the forecasts supporting this policy were exaggerated. Covid was a nasty illness that killed people: but its infection fatality rate was low: most of its victims were elderly people with pre-existing illnesses (people like me, in fact); and “excess” deaths were quite low.

These realities were concealed by not distinguishing between dying with and dying of Covid, by suppressing medical information that contradicted the orthodoxy, by censoring scientists who dissented from it, and by “nudging” people to accept lockdown policies at a subconscious level.

And now, of course, we know that the consensus—the bureaucratic orthodoxy—was a mistaken one. Sweden defied it and has had a better outcome on all measures—not only economic ones, but also in democratic accountability, public order, and civil rights. As I also pointed out in Quadrant, “ this bureaucratic groupthink also led to increasingly authoritarian behavior by the state:

The flame that torched the truckers’ protest in Canada was the mandate from the Canadian government that truckers must be vaccinated before driving their long and lonely way along the vast interstates of North America.

Vox populi.

Standing back from partisan politics, we can see that a broadly similar political structure is emerging throughout the West. Conservatives and-or moderate liberals win elections sometimes, maybe most times, and therefore make occasional advances; the Progressive Left controls the unaccountable institutions of global governance along with cultural, legal, bureaucratic, and economic power almost all the time. So the Left is able to block most of the Right’s policies in government, but the Right has no similar restraints on the Left.

We see it most clearly in Britain where Boris Johnson’s government won a large parliamentary majority, but found that cultural institutions from the BBC to the British Museum to the National Trust are now “woke” institutions focusing on, for instance, an account of the slave trade that makes no mention of Britain’s abolition of it worldwide—and failed to find a way of altering that balance.

That explains why some governments in Europe, notably the Polish and Hungarian ones, want to strengthen the elected government in relation to the progressive institutions that can block it. The E.U. is the largest such obstacle in today’s Europe, and conservatives generally should want to see Brussels return some of its powers to national capitals. That’s especially important at the moment in relation to taxation which the Biden administration, the E.U., and now the G7 are attempting to harmonize in a way that will penalize low-tax and low-regulation countries. Those attempts violate the vital principle of jurisdictional competition. If they succeed, they would turn the E.U. into a cartel of governments colluding with each other to keep the price of government high.

We should oppose that in principle. If we fail, we will find ourselves both living under taxation without representation and financing inefficient and unresponsive global governance. And our only recourse will be to riot—by which time, of course, we will have lost the argument.

Are Dutch Farmers the New Canadian Truckers?

We've heard a lot about Net-Zero insanity in the U.K., Canada, and the United States, but enthusiasm for the concept is widespread among our global elite. For just the latest example, the government of the Netherlands, in order to do their part to "fight climate change" has recently enacted various pieces of environmentalist legislation. Among the most ambitious of these is a plan to slash the emission of gases like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Such drastic cuts necessitates radical action, and so to achieve their goal, the Dutch government is going to include increased regulations on farmers, including significant reductions in livestock -- whose flatulence is a popular target of environmentalist ire -- and for public money to be put towards buying up farmland to prevent its use in farming. Official plans have even been leaked laying out "scenarios" in which farmers could be forced to sell their land to the government.

This is shocking. The Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States, and farming is central to its economy. More than that, however, it is a major part of their national identity. The Dutch are proud of their farming prowess, and it lives on even when they've left home. The United States and Canada are home to scores of ethnically Dutch farmers whose families made their way west to escape the great wars of the 20th century, and much of modern South Africa was built by the Dutch farmers called Boers, who arrived there in the 17th century. Farming is in their blood.

Consequently, provoked by this attack on their way of life, the farmers are fighting back. Sometimes literally.

More often, however, their response has taken a more organized form, including "slow rolling" highways, by pulling tractors out onto the open road such that traffic grounds to a halt.

They've also taken to blockading supermarkets and distribution centers.

And dumping their milk rather than sending it to market.

Their object is to demonstrate how much the country relies on them, and what Dutch life would be like without the milk, eggs, meat, and produce that is the fruit of their labors.

Will these protests have an effect? Prime Minister Mark Rutte has vowed not to deal with the protesting farmers themselves, but he has begun negotiations with some of the nation's leading farmers' organizations in the hopes of working out a deal. It is likely that he's caught between a rock and a hard place, with the fanatically environmentalist European Union, on one side, pressuring his government to comply with the emissions targets they've set for his country, and his own countryman on the other.

Hopefully he chooses his own people rather than that unaccountable, post-democratic monstrosity. Doing so would make Rutte a greater leader than Canada's Justin Trudeau, who has incessantly courted the good opinion of the international elite instead of defending the interests of Canadians. Trudeau's negligence begat the Freedom Convoy this past winter, a movement which had more success than is popularly remembered, even if their fight isn't yet over.

Hopefully these Dutch farmers will be at least as successful.

Will Erdogan Scupper the EastMed Pipeline?

The European Union imports about 70 percent of its natural gas, 37 percent of which comes from Russia, giving Putin considerable sway over it. That looks like it may finally be about to change as Cyprus, Greece and Israel appear to have clinched a deal to build a sub-seawater pipeline, the EastMed Pipeline, from Israel’s enormous offshore fields (Tamar—West of Haifa -- and Leviathan, southwest of the Tamar field) to Cyprus and from there on to Greece and Italy. Two other Israeli gas fields, Tarish and Tanen, are earmarked for domestic consumption.

But the expensive project still has a significant opponent—Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It’s been more than 30 years since Golda Meir voiced her complaint: ”Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order too bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”

Still, the complaint that Israel lacked fossil fuel was premature, for while Israel may lack oil it has for some years been sitting on enormous deposits of offshore nature gas (trillions of cubic feet of it), so much, in fact, that they cannot use it all. Legal Insurrection has been documenting the finds for seven years and provides a convenient history of them. Israel has been selling some to Jordan and Egypt, but the new fields are so enormous that other markets could also be served, although it will take significant investment and engineering and diplomatic skills to make this a reality.

Working with Noble Energy and the governments of Cyprus and Greece, and fending off domestic environmental opponents, the Israeli government has been able to greenlight the EastMed pipeline project, which is expected to carry 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per annum with a potential to double that amount.

The countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the 6 billion euro ($6.86 billion) pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

A land and sea survey is currently underway to determine the route of the 1,900-km (1,200-mile) pipeline. The European Union and the pipeline’s owner IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greek gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison, have each invested 35 million euros in the planning.

At the moment, besides Russia, the major pipelines supplying Europe originate in Algeria, since the once-functioning pipeline from Libya is now cut off. Pipelines are unique in that they require belief in consistent diplomatic relations and a secure supply chain.

Unlike oil, gas neither flows to spot markets nor is sold en route to a consumer. There is no global market price like Brent Sweet Crude for oil. Gas is priced unique to each deal, nation or region. It is not globally traded as a commodity. The infrastructure to transmit gas—either via pipelines or liquefaction—is so complex, demanding, and expensive that marketing agreements and supply patterns are locked in for the long term, indeed years before the molecules even flow. Even liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped from port to port is essentially a “locked” structure much like train lines.

The countries supplying and receiving the gas, therefore, tether their critical energy policies to the expectation of a particular supply chain, and to a particular diplomatic relationship. Since the severing of a particular source of gas is not easily replaced in an ad hoc fashion by oversupply from elsewhere, it is strategically important for a nation, even when it only represents a relatively small portion of its overall supply. Thus, even modest amounts of Israeli gas exports can carry significant strategic leverage.

Something like 18 percent of Europe’s gas comes through Algeria, and Europe is smart to seek diversification of its supplies from more stable sources.

Will the creation of the EastMed pipeline substantially shift Israeli-European relations? If built, mostly likely the answer is yes. I expect it may well also lessen Vladimir Putin’s grip on Europe, reducing its dominant role in providing critical energy resources. On the other hand, the pipeline has not yet begun construction and it's almost certain to face Turkish opposition. Putin’s not the only leader who must be viewing this deal with concern.

According to the Financial Times, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims his country’s maritime rights cross the planned EastMed pipeline route. Like Tony Soprano he wants to “get his beak in,” and seems poised to demand a cut of the revenue.

The region has the potential to become one of the last great fossil fuel plays — with bountiful gas to supply energy-poor countries around the basin, with enough left over to export...

The initial target is to provide the fuel to drive Egypt’s growing economy. Longer-term, some energy executives believe they will be able to pump gas supplies into southern Europe, reducing the region’s reliance on Russia.  But Turkey — excluded due to its fraught relations with many of the other players in the region — could stymie those ambitions. Mr. Erdogan has responded to being left out of his neighbours’43211 co-operation by sending the Turkish navy to intimidate drill ships belonging to international oil companies and dispatching his own exploration vessels.

What began as a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus is fuelling a regional power game, drawing in nations as far away as the Gulf, and causing deep unease in the EU and the US. The latest flashpoint is Libya, where Turkey this year expanded its military presence after sealing an agreement with a UN-backed government in Tripoli that could enable Ankara to drill for oil and gas off the Libyan coast.

Erdogan seems at least as big a challenge to Europe on this issue as he does on immigration, and his strengthened ties to the government of Libya (as Russia has historically maintained) give him added clout. The E.U.’s inability to deter his aggression doesn’t provide much reason for optimism.