Put your trust in foreign parts

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Ed Cox thinks we need to change our attitudes towards the gas industry and even football …

Did you know that energy markets have a lot in common with football (he writes)?

Yes, I believe that Premiership football in England shares more than a little with our gas industry, for example. And the ultimate conclusion is that we need to change our attitude towards both.

Just as UK football has opened the door to widespread foreign entry from Russia and the Middle East, so too has the gas market. The former may be seen as a good opportunity for foreign investors, while the latter is nothing less than a necessity for our own businesses and homes.

The likes of Chelsea has succumbed to Russia, West Ham to somewhere in Eastern Europe, with Liverpool stuck between the US and Dubai.

Most recently the ever unpredictable Manchester City was acquired by the mysterious Abu Dhabi Group, which has an estimated wealth of $1 trillion. The size of the funds is incomprehensible but the money is vital: those with now have the chance of succeeding, those without must fail.

While football purists may resent the ‘invasion’, it offers the Premiership the chance to attract star players and the clubs to enjoy a global marketing footprint. As a lower league fan I just stand by, watch and smile at the spectacle.

Now, some of the same countries into our football happen to be those that can keep our energy supplies afloat, the countries who will become responsible for keeping our lights on as gas becomes an ever more important source of energy.

I read that just six years ago we only needed to import 2% of our gas. Now it’s 40%. And, as the North Sea reserves deplete further, this could rise to 80% in the next ten years.

How many Brits know this? We moan about fuel prices but few have any idea how fundamentally our energy supplies are changing and how dependent we are on foreign supply. I fear many still think the gas board runs the place, rather than a complex system of brokers, forward trading and pipes connecting us to Europe.

Yes, we’ll get gas from Norway and the Netherlands, friendly neighbors, but Russia has around 35% of proven global reserves. Middle East’s Iran and Qatar also have over 30% combined.

We have to be connected to these guys to survive!

With countries like Japan and South Korea so dependent on LNG, the UK might struggle to attract imports unless we pay the highest price.

Sourcing through the pipe from exotic locations may be costly compared to what we’re used to but we have no alternative.

I fear though that we – the media and man in the street – will paint a picture of dangerous Communists and saber wielding Arabs. To us, an undesirable partnership.

‘They take our car industry, our football teams, our banks and now control our energy supplies!’ Maybe that will be will a tabloid headline before long.

As we lurch into recession it’s about time we realised we no longer call the shots. We don’t run the world, not even Western Europe. We need help and might have to work with nations we don’t understand and we aren’t meant to like.

In that way it’s like our national football team – we’re down the rankings (despite a great win over Croatia) and actually we deserve to be. We have to respect those sides above us, otherwise we’ll lose out badly.

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