CAIRO — Walking home from the central Cairo restaurant where he works late on a recent night, Ahmed Ali did a double take: Tahrir Square, home to the famous Egyptian Museum and Multiple revolutionswas almost complete dark.
Usually it drips with golden light. But that night, practically its only light came from a red subway stop sign.
Was there a blackout? Mr. Ali asked his fellow waiters. No, he said.
In August, at the height of the Egyptian summer, the government Ordered In government offices, stadiums, hotels and malls to turn off air-conditioning and turn off lights to save electricity. Natural gas savings will be sold to Europe at a hefty markup, helping Egypt’s climate. Economic hurricane And Europe will survive. Energy crisis Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The more we export to Europe, the more we will have power shortages here,” said Mr. Ali, 21. “It’s good for Europe, but it’s not good for us.”
However, for the government in Cairo, a Europe’s sudden need for natural gas is a very good thing.
And even as Egypt hosts the annual United Nations conference on climate change, known as COP27, this week, fossil fuel sales are among its top priorities.
Critics have questioned Egypt’s fitness to host the summit on other aspects of its environmental record, including emissions reduction targets and Large scale infrastructure projects They are to destroy Green space across Cairo and its water sucker Prestressed The Nile, its main water source.
But gas is in the spotlight.
While Egypt is Desperate for cash As the war in Ukraine hurts its debt-ridden economy, Europe is naturally uneasy after rejecting Russian energy because of the war.
Enter Egypt and its two gas liquefaction export plants—just across the Mediterranean from Europe.
Since Egypt began pumping oil from a Mediterranean natural gas field known as Johor in 2017, the country has sought to position itself as a major energy hub. By January, it expects to sell $1 billion a month in natural gas, some its own, some imported and liquefied for re-export.
Experts say a direct gas pipeline from the southern Mediterranean to Europe is impractical. This means that natural gas pumped from elsewhere in the region must go to Egypt for liquefaction before being re-exported north to Europe by ship.
“The financial situation we’re in has put us in a ridiculous position, cutting off energy from Egyptians to sell to Europeans,” said Ahmed Al-Roubi, Greenpeace’s Middle East regional campaigns manager. “
But for Egypt, the benefits of positioning itself as an energy hub go beyond financial.
Egypt already uses its geopolitical leverage on two other major issues, illegal immigration and terrorism, both of which it has pledged help to Europe to combat. Energy has given him a new card to play in the face. scold Above it from the west Human rights Record
Egypt is also benefiting from LNG shipments through the Suez Canal, on which the government recently increased fees, said Richard Probst, the Egypt representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German social democratic political foundation. .
“With the need for Europe, many will not back down,” he said.
The European Parliament voted in July. The label Natural gas, as a “green” fuel, is opening the door to a flood of new investment. There are Western energy companies. Great gas deals with governments across Africa to supply Europe.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen has said that June 1 deal A stable flow of natural gas between Israel and Egypt to Europe would “help our EU’s energy security,” he said.
Egypt has rejected warnings from climate experts that no new gas fields should be opened if the world is expected to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, experts say, adding to the worst effects of climate change. This is important to prevent.
Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Tariq Al-Moula recently called gas “the cleanest hydrocarbon fuel”. is saying It will continue to play a key role in the energy mix.
But environmental groups have warned that gas investment risks leaving developing countries dependent on fossil fuels for decades.
“Instead of putting these really expensive big investments into dead-end projects, they should be channeled into clean energy projects” that will ultimately cost less than fossil fuels, says the Union of Concerned for Climate and Energy Policy. Director Rachel Cletus said. Scientists.
“But rich countries are not in a position to twiddle their fingers,” he added. They are also increasing fossil fuel investments. “And making that transition is a very difficult challenge for low-income countries.”
However, there are serious doubts that Egypt can continue to meet its own gas needs, let alone Europe’s.
“The notion that Egypt can supply Europe with abundant gas is, for lack of a better word, a myth,” said Peter Stevenson, Eastern Mediterranean editor at oil and gas analysis firm MEES.
Even if Egypt’s two LNG plants were operating at full capacity, they could export only 11 percent of what Europe used to get from Russia — assuming Europe could afford every drop of Egyptian gas. may, the majority of which goes to the highest global bidder.
But plants have performed at far less than potential, pointing to a deeper problem: Despite this sea storm In the Mediterranean gas field, Egypt has barely any surplus gas of its own to sell.
There is domestic demand for electricity. increased About 35 percent since 2015, driven by a growing rapidly population, while gas production has steadily declined since last fall, thanks in part to overdrilling.
To close the gap and sell more gas, Egypt is fueling some of its power plants with mazut, a low-quality fuel oil that burns more dirt and kills plant life, Mohamed said. Reduces the duration of El Sobaki, Professor of Energy Engineering at Cairo University. Thanks to mazut, Egypt’s electricity sector has begun emitting carbon dioxide at a much higher rate.
“It’s really a double-edged sword,” said Professor Al Sobki. “We’re expanding the economic potential of natural gas, but at the same time, we’re hurting the environment.”
Egypt was able to export two cargoes of LNG to Europe in August after increasing gas imports from Israel and burning more diesel at home. Without such measures, however, Egypt would have nothing to sell and risk a blackout, Mr Stevenson said.
In the heat of August, when domestic demand is usually at its peak, ordering power cuts may also have helped.
But there seems to be a rush to make Egypt a gas hub. Distracted Analysts say that the huge potential for clean energy, which requires more investment and better government regulations
Despite its vast deserts, windswept coastlines and year-round sunshine, only 4.9 percent of Egypt’s electricity came from renewable sources in the most recent fiscal year, well short of the 20 percent target by 2022.
Climate Action Tracker Rates Egypt’s emissions reduction pledges, which did not yet include a numerical target, as “grossly inadequate”.
Some energy experts agree with Egypt that as long as fossil fuel investments are quickly phased out, as the world moves toward clean energy, gas can play an important role in keeping the lights on and homes warm. can Long-term, Egypt is geographically well-positioned to export clean energy to Europe from the renewable-rich Middle East, he says.
As some African countries have pointed out, Egypt and other developing countries can hardly be blamed for seeking profit when wealthy nations first became wealthy from fossil fuels.
Jason Bordoff, cofounding dean of the Columbia Climate School, said the climate conference “has a growing tension between developed and developing countries that is going to be on full display”. “Low-income countries are saying, ‘We didn’t create the problem, yet you’re telling us not to industrialize the way developed countries can.'”
Ahead of the climate conference, Egypt’s clean energy investment has increased, with Mr. Sisi recently saying that green projects now account for about 40 percent of total public investment. Egypt plans to develop a national strategy. Green hydrogenA clean-burning yet energy-dense fuel produced from renewable sources, Summit.
For now, gas is king.
Mr al-Sisi was due to meet the European Commission’s Ms van der Leyen at the summit on Monday, although the meeting was later cancelled. On the agenda: Gas for Europe.