Energy Historian Calls Ukraine Invasion ‘Irrational’

  • Daniel Yergin is a leading energy historian and vice-chairman of S&P Global. 
  • He said Russia’s days as an energy superpower were “waning,” and called the invasion “irrational.”
  • Yergin said he’d once angered Putin by asking about shale energy at a conference in 2013.

A leading energy historian, who claims to have enraged Vladimir Putin by asking him about shale energy, has said Russia overestimated the West’s reliance on its oil and gas when it invaded Ukraine.

In an interview with the New York Times, Daniel Yergin called the invasion “irrational,” adding: “One of Putin’s many miscalculations was his assumption that, because of Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, it would protest but stand aside, as it did with Crimea.

“It has had just the opposite effect. Europe wants to get out of that dependence as fast as it can.”

Yergin, who is vice-chairman of S&P Global, told the Times Putin was “like a CEO when he talks about energy markets,” and that he had timed the invasion to when those markets were at their tightest, as supply chains unwound after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the invasion heralded “a new uncertain era,” adding: “As we talk, the risks are going up.”

European countries are trying to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, which makes up 45% of its gas imports. The EU has drafted a plan to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels by 2027, while the US banned imports of Russian oil, gas and coal.

In a separate interview on Friday, Yergin told Bloomberg’s “What Goes Up” podcast that he asked the first question of Putin after the Russian president had spoken at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2013.

The historian said he asked about shale gas and Putin “started shouting at me saying, ‘shale is barbaric!'”

“He knew that US shale was a threat to him in two ways: one, because US natural gas would compete with natural gas in Europe, and secondly, because this would really augment the US’s position in the world and give it a kind of flexibility it didn’t have when it was importing 60% of its oil,” Yergin told the podcast.

He added that growing American shale oil and gas production had reduced the country’s dependence on Russian energy, which “had a much bigger impact on geopolitics than people recognize.”

Yergin said on the podcast that “Russia’s door to the West is closed,” and that it would be forced to pivot toward China as Europe moves away from Russian energy.

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