EU coal consumption drop in the bucket

12 Apr 2022 by

The European Union announced last week that it would ban Russian coal, the latest escalation in sanctions as the war in Ukraine drags on. It’s the first swing Europe has taken against Russia’s mammoth energy sector, though debate still rages on about whether to take the more drastic step of sanctioning oil and gas.

The move is designed to hit Russia in the pocket book, as it exports 4 billions euros ($4.4 billion) a year in coal to Europe. But when it comes to Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, coal is just one drop in the bucket. According to Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics office, only 6% of the EU’s energy imports were solid fossil fuels, i.e. coal.

Almost half of that coal, admittedly, came from Russia. But it will be relatively easier to find new countries to buy coal from than new sources of gas or oil, says Kristine Berzina, head of geopolitics at the German Marshall Fund think tank. The next biggest suppliers of coal to Europe are the U.S., Australia, Poland and Colombia.

The next possible step – sanctions targeting Russian oil or gas – will bring more pain still, as Europe is already struggling with higher energy costs and record inflation. Natural gas is more commonly used to heat homes than coal, and 8.2% of households in the EU couldn’t afford to adequately heat their home in 2020. But no matter what kind of fuel gets sanctioned, it’s difficult for Europe to escape from its dependence on Russian energy.


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