End of fossil fuels: “the lack of preparation of the EU is tragic” according to Matthieu Auzanneau

End of fossil fuels: “the lack of preparation of the EU is tragic” according to Matthieu Auzanneau

During the Univershifté organized by The Shift Project, a think tank on energy transition, EURACTIV spoke with its director, Matthieu Auzanneau, about the risks to oil and gas supplies from the European Union (EU) and the security imperative of energy sobriety.

Matthieu Auzanneau is the author of essays, including Or Noir. The great history of oil, published in 2015 by La Découverte and Pétrole editions: the decline is near, published with Hortense Chauvin in 2021 by Seuil editions.


  • The EU is unprepared for the inexorable decline in Russian oil and gas production and will face constraints on supply volumes;
  • Vladimir Putin takes advantage of the “naivety” of the EU to reimpose a balance of power;
  • Energy sobriety is a security imperative;
  • The Syrian example is a warning for European societies bordered by powerful regimes whose survival depends on oil windfalls.


The Shift Project published in May 2021 a study on the risks future oil suppliesEU. What is she saying ?

In 2020, we published a first study under the aegis of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, based on data provided by the company dspecialized economic intelligence Rystad Energy.

This study showed that more than half of the supplies of theEU comes from oil-producing countries whose production is expected to decline dhere 2030.

TheyThese are countries which, for lack of sufficient reserves, are either already in decline (theentire African continent), or on the verge of decline, like Russia.

Entrusted to two former Total production managers and theformer No. 1 oil expert in theInternational Energy Agency (IEA), our second study published in 2021, so before theinvasion of theUkraine, worsened the finding:EU is at high risk of being subjected to constraints ofsupply from the 2020s, unless the “shale oil” boom [tight oil ou shale oil en anglais] continues in the United States and that Russia maintains its production capacities.

Whatwhat about todaytoday with the war in Ukraine and the acceleration of the decline in Russian supplies accounting for 30% of the fossil imports of theEU?

In February 2021, Total already warned thatit risks missing no less than 10% of world oil production [environ 10 millions de barils/jour] to respond to the request ofhere 2025.

However, the situation appears to be even more serious today.today.

On the American side, the production of “shale oil” is slowed down by the weight of the producers’ debt.

On the Russian side, before the war the authorities made it known that extractions could probably never return to their pre-Covid level due to the aging of production. And for lack of investment, IWestern sanctions are likely to precipitate this decline.

The unpreparedness of theEU is historic and tragic. When you make the size of a continent, you don’t change supplier like you change creamery.

What is the link between sanctions and Russian production?

Almost all Western operators are preparing to pack up, leading to a sharp deterioration in the country’s medium-term production prospects.

Rystad now leans for a production of around 7 million barrels / day in 2030, 30% less thanbefore the war ! Too bad for theEU, since Russia is its main supplier…

The risk of constraints on supplies from the European Union is extremely high for the 2020s and certain by the 2030s.

Here, the main problem is neither geopolitical nor industrial, because the drying up of more than half of Europe’s current oil sources is above all an ecological phenomenon.

So the war in Ukraine could be a resource war?

No doubt that theaccess to the immense agricultural and mining resources of theUkraine weighs in the logic of Vladimir Putin. But with the blackmail exerted on gas, Moscow reminds us above all of what made the history of Europe until 1945: the logic of pure power.

This logic is obviously dependent on adequate energy resources.

AllWestern Europe sis shown to be naïve. LGermany, in the first place, which thought itself “vaccinated” against the logic of power.

Energy sobriety is a long-term structural security imperative.

LThe EU has the greatest climate ambitions in the world, but remains the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels… However, I insist, a large part of its sources of supply are running out, whether we are talking about oil… or gas !

Precisely, what is the narrative to put in place for energy sobriety?

Dfirst, it is necessary toto hear from our political leaders, European ones in particular, a message ofwarning about the inexorable nature of the end of fossil fuels.

Lidea that gas is an indispensable intermediary on the path to transition energy is fraudulent. Moreover, gas production in the North Sea is a textbook case of geological depletion.

The UK is delsewhere in the process of disengaging from oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

The “disengagement” serves to amuse the gallery, it is not a matter of choice. There are just wells that are emptying, and it will continue.

So if we don’t seriously start phasing out fossil fuels of our own free will, in coherence and peace, it will be done by force, Mad Max style.

In my opinion, the last Mad Max (2015) tells theexpansion of Daesh in Syria: in 2008, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime can no longer subsidize the Syrian economy, because Syrian oil wells are running out.

At the same time, the country is experiencing a terrible drought, probably linked to climate change.

It would be obscene to consider that these conditions alone triggered the civil war. But I note that, as in Venezuela or Yemen, the structural decline in oil production precedes the nightmare by ten years.

This should be a dazzling warning for European societies bordered by powerful regimes whose survival depends on an oil windfall destined to dry up: Russia, Algeria, Nigeria, etc.

VSis ultimately what Jared Diamond says in his essay Collapse. The lack of resources ofa civilization drags it inexorably towards decline and losing a war nis finally thata “coup de grace”.

We are at a fateful moment in history, at the physical limits of growth. The vocation of political ecology is to confront the political game with physical realities.

There is therefore a updating powerful, urgent and lucid to be carried out by all political organizations, whatever their ideology.

If for theinstant central banks ndare not pull the plug, jam afraid that da year from now, we woke up to a very different world, as unstable economically as it was politically.

Forcoming winter, measures such as filling gas stocks will not will therefore not be sufficient?

When you press too hard on the carotid of the economic system, its brain does stupid things.

We are going to be caught both by the phenomena of price volatility and the limitation of the quantities available. VSis inexorable if we delay weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.

I am angry at the negligence, inconsistency and blindness of political authorities European and national. When we show them our work, nothing happens.

However, from Total toAIE, via the Kremlin and the big investment banks, many have been sounding the alarm for years!

NOTis there not a psychological bias? Lpublic opinion knows that itis dangerous, but she prefers to hide her face…

“Men willingly believe whatthey wish ” wrote Julius Caesar. In other words, we take our wishes for realities. This childishness is likely to cost us dearly.

With the energy transition, our technical society born 150 years ago is in the midst of a teenage crisis. Some end very badly, but that is not inevitable!


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