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Energy independence is a precondition for national independence

Energy is a vital input in every stage of our daily  lives: at home, at work, in industries, in the transportation of humans and goods, and it is precisely for this reason that it is at the helm of the basic and sustaining requirements for economic and social developments. Energy dependency means economic, international and security dependency. Energy independence is a precondition for national independence. We have lately been hearing from the people who run our country that “our energy resources are not sufficient, and furthermore, within our globalized world, energy resources have become ordinary commodities that can be bought or sold, so energy dependence is not something we should be afraid of.”

Yet this is not true, as it is evident in the acts of occupations, massacres and provocation of sectarian wars in the Middle East, where lies 48% of world proven oil reserves as well as 44% of its proven natural gas reserves. Apart from these facts,  the argument that “our country’s energy resources are insufficient” is without any merit and it is squarely pointed at deceiving the public.

When we are talking about Turkey, it is important to state that 76% of our primary energy  demand  was met through energy imports in 2016. In the last few years, the total  bill for our energy imports have risen almost to a quarter of (fluctuating between 18 to 24%) all our  total imports bill. The government officials keep saying that “energy dependence has actually gone down during their time”, and that they “will continue to push the dependency downward while increasing domestic and renewable energy production until 2023.” But actions speak louder than words since the rhetoric and the applications are significantly divergent.

So, let’s look at the data coming directly from  Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. : Energy import dependency  was 52% in 1990, 67% in 2002, and 76% in 2015. An obvious increase. Funds paid for energy imports was 9.2 billion USD in 2002, 55 billion USD in 2014. Another exponential increase. The latter has gone down in 2015, but that’s due to general decrease in oil and gas prices around the world as well as decreasing energy demand in Turkey due to economic downturn.

Years of energy policy executed on pure commercial interests next to misguided source preferences yielded a very natural result: out of all the energy consumed in Turkey,  28.2% comes from natural gas,  31% from oil, and  27.3% is from coal. Putting the environmental issues these numbers represent aside, our dependency ratios are staggering: 99% in natural gas, 93% in oil, 50% in coal.

However, despite the  279 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity we consumed last year (2016), electricity  generation that could be obtained from our domestic (largely renewable) sources and energy efficiency improvements (if it could ever be achieved), which have not yet been put to use, is equal to  3 times this amount. So, our domestic resources are not “very insufficient” as claimed by politicians or their bureaucrats.

Another bothersome aspect of external dependence in energy has to do with our relations with the countries we “depend” on importing our oil, gas and other resources (like coal and enriched uranium if Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant-NPP would be built) from.  For natural gas we are completely dependent to imports, of which  53% of our gas imports coming from Russia and a further 18%  from Iran. This sums up to 73% of all natural gas imports.

When it comes to crude oil imports, 24% comes in from Iraq,  17.3% from Iran and  19.4% from Russia. Russia’s share in our total coal imports is about  32%. If Turkey’s first NPP in Akkuyu would be built, since the construction, fuel supply, operation of the plant and even waste management had been awarded to Russians by an international agreement, Turkey’s already risky over-dependency to Russia would further increase.

It is clear that we don’t have exemplary relationships with any of these countries. We are almost on the verge of a hot clash with Iraq (Central Government). The most recent rapprochement seems to be tactical rather than being strategical since the AKP government is perceived by the Iraqi government to be interfering into internal affairs of Iraq and perceived as “smuggling” Iraq’s oil together with the regional government (KRG) since years.  The territorial integrity as well as the constitution of Iraq are being repeatedly ignored as claimed by the Iraqi side. The oil that belongs to the Iraqi people according to their   had been transported out via trucks and later through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline  together with the regional administration in the north, rather than the constitutional government of Iraq, over to Turkey and then is claimed to be exported out. According to UN , Security Council resolutions (#1483 and #1546), the revenues from the oil sales must be handed over to the UN account opened for Iraqi Development Fund and then to the Iraqi government;  instead, the funds are kept in Halkbank. Iraq has already appealed to the international arbitration court in Paris against Turkey and BOTAŞ about this matter.

Following the downed-plane crisis with Russia, there seems to be a finicky “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” rapprochement between Russia and Turkey. The “sweetener” of this so-called rapprochement is the “Akkuyu NPP project”, one that will have Russia build a nuclear plant at an exorbitant price and will increase our dependence on them. We are also in arbitration with the Russians  for the Russian natural gas prices which is higher than the Russian gas supplied to many EU countries. It would be naïve to think that Putin will trust Turkey’s government when they are clearly following a “Muslim Brotherhood”-centric policy in the Middle East and Africa. It would be fun to think that Putin would trust him. Similarly, Erdoğan doesn’t trust in the Putin administration. But since both leaders are under pressure (though for different reasons) from the EU and the US, for the time being they seem to be embarking on the “Enemy of my enemy is my friend” philosophy. For similar reasons, we have  diverging interests with Iran: an ongoing arbitration process, and a mutual distrust based on Erdoğan’s Muslim Brotherhood adventure against the Shia expansionism ambitions by the Iranian goverment.

Prime Minister Yıldırım  claims that they “continue to work on projects that will increase our diversity and reduce our dependence on foreign energy until 2023. Nuclear power plants are among the most important projects within this context.”  Imagine: We are energy dependent to the hilt! And Russia is the outstanding source for all our energy imports: 53% in natural gas, 19.4% in oil and 32% in coal. And under Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant Agreement; the construction and the operation of the power plant, as well as its fuel procurement and waste fuels are all given to the Russian side. And this is supposed to reduce our dependence on energy! Again, putting the extraneous hazards of nuclear power aside, this will deeply deepen our energy dependence on Russia, but those in power claim that “we will lower our dependence with this”! I give up!

The solution lies in engaging our domestic and renewable energy resources (which are capable of producing   3 times the energy we consume -810 billion kilowatt-hours)

in a sustainable manner;  domestically  manufacturing energy equipment through an academia-industry collaboration and government subsidies and leadership; increasing the efficiencies in energy utilization; managing the demand; focusing  on and prioritizing lower energy-intensive sectors and starting to re-employ our qualified workforce who had been let go in favour of nepotism.

Let’s not forget: As Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the leader of our National War of Independence, said: “When we say full independence; we mean full independence and freedom: political, financial, economic, judicial, military, cultural. When we are deprived of independence in any of these respects, the state and the nation are deprived of the true meaning of independence.”