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Earlier this month we read that the construction of a gas pipeline between Germany and the Iberian peninsula is strongly supported by Portugal, Germany and Spain. This pipeline should, at least in theory, make the EU more energy-independent, and in the future, might also facilitate the transition to sustainable energy by transmitting green hydrogen in this pipeline.

Despite funding support from the European Commission, France still seems to be reluctant to support this project. While I understand that the project is probably more beneficial to Germany, I still don't quite understand what is behind France's stance. Is it really the case that France believes the project is not really helpful as outlined By Thierry Bros, a Professor at Science Po Paris and a contributor to Natural Gas World:

What is the point of a pipeline that links two regasification terminals?” he told EURACTIV France. For him, the push to revive the pipeline is motivated more by “political correctness” than energy security." and "However, Bros says the project would mainly benefit Germany and that there is no reason for the French and Spanish to pay for it."

Is the funding from the European Commission not full, which would make France to pay for this project?

Update (Oct. 2022):

Portugal, Spain and France have finally "reached an agreement to replace the MidCat project with a new project called the green energy corridor that will link the Iberian Peninsula to France and therefore to the European energy market"

"The route, dubbed BarMar, will mainly be used to pump green hydrogen and other renewable gases but will also temporarily allow for the transportation of a "limited amount" of natural gas to help alleviate Europe's energy crisis, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said."

(source; Reuters)

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  • One of the articles you linked seems to give an answer. "“What is the point of a pipeline that links two regasification terminals?” he told EURACTIV France. For him, the push to revive the pipeline is motivated more by “political correctness” than energy security." and "However, Bros says the project would mainly benefit Germany and that there is no reason for the French and Spanish to pay for it."
    – Joe W
    Aug 27 at 20:31
  • @JoeW, that's right, I alluded to this by "Is it really the case the project is useless?" but I'm not sure this is any "official" explanation as it is given by "Thierry Bros, a Professor at Science Po Paris and a contributor to Natural Gas World,"; Also maybe funding to the project is secured at least partially. But maybe indeed that's the case as France sees it.
    – discipulus
    Aug 27 at 20:39
  • Those quotes would be good to include in your question
    – Joe W
    Aug 27 at 20:41
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    I'm not certain how investing in a very time consuming and expensive pipeline can possibly lead to "transitioning to sustainable energy". If anything, this will increase dependence in fossil fuels because the upfront costs needs to be recuperate. I also think you have the question backwards, you should be looking for reasons France would support building a pipeline through their country when they see no benefit, not why they oppose it.
    – uberhaxed
    Aug 27 at 20:44
  • @uberhaxed, I guess ultimately is a question of how far and strategically one sees. regards the transition. Maybe I got this wrong from the last paragraph of a document I referred: "the Commission's demand is that the use of the Midcat transcends fossil fuel and that it have the capacity to be used in the future for the transport of green hydrogen, following the path of ecological transition. The European Commission reflected that "a cross-border infrastructure like this be evaluated more on long-term criteria in order to take advantage of the great potential for renewable hydrogen .."
    – discipulus
    Aug 27 at 20:59

2 Answers 2

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One half of the answer is that the pipeline wouldn't be ready in time to help in the Ukraine context.

negative signal from the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. Asked by L'Indépendant, Barbara Pompili's cabinet confirms the minister's position on this subject : "French and Spanish regulators decided jointly in 2019 to stop the project, due to its high cost and lack of interest. energy companies. France nevertheless underlines the change of situation with the energy crisis which is looming in Europe : "If the current context is different from that of 2019, it must be kept in mind that such a project, if it were economically viable, would take years to be operational. MidCat cannot be presented as a short-term solution to our current challenges".

The second half is probably at least partially implicit from the minister who is doing the answering: this isn't an easy sell to people concerned about climate and isn't really beneficial to France.

So whoever approved it would "pay" politically, with little benefit to point to. There is a similar position in BC, when it comes to running a pipeline from Alberta: we (BC) don't benefit, so it's a hard sell in domestic politics.

Another article says that France things LNG harbor terminals are a better, and says:

In fact, France would not necessarily find its interest in the construction of a vast pipeline allowing the Iberian Peninsula to sell its gas in central Europe. This is also why the first project to create a third gas pipeline, called MidCat (Midi-Catalonia) and started in 2013 at the initiative of Portugal and Spain, had been abandoned in 2019.

“Thanks to this project, Madrid and Lisbon hoped to become a vast LNG export platform in Europe, but a large part of the MidCat infrastructure had to pass through France. However, when a pipe is built, it is notably the country in which it passes that pays. And the French did not want to assume an additional cost for the taxpayer, estimated at 3 billion euros, in order to let the Spaniards come and compete with them in northern Europe, ”explains to La Tribune a source close at the time. folder.

Especially since France also intends to do well, and become an important gateway for LNG on the continent. “The government intends to build a fourth LNG terminal in Le Havre. If it gets there in time, the imported LNG will a priori go to Germany. It is therefore a question of ensuring that the gas which would pass through Le Havre would not compete with that from Spain, ”says Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, Energy researcher at the Jacques Delors Institute.

The bit about the financing isn't necessarily misrepresentation as the EU is now, as of very recently, proposing to France help financially, which implies that there was previously something to those concerns.

It also that in Spain as well, there is opposition for the same reasons cited above:

rejection of the junior partner in his own coalition government, Unidas Podemos. The alternative left grouping do not see the plan in a good light because of the ecological impact of a gas pipeline, as well as its high cost and the fact that the construction would take too long.

p.s. for those who understand some French, here was my search term to find French PoVs (the pourquoi forces French sources).

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  • Thanks for the answer! (tried to upvote by 15 points needed).
    – discipulus
    Aug 27 at 21:08
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    You can accept it later (acceptance gets you 2 pts and requires no points). But wait a while to see what other people contribute. Welcome aboard Aug 27 at 21:10
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In addition to the other answer, another reason for France opposition (which might actually be the reason), is France's bet on nuclear energy. A recent article (Google translate) about France now "open to study" the Midcat project. emph. mine:

A little over a week ago, the country adopted a more reticent stance towards the project , since the Midcat "would take a long time to be operational" and "therefore, it would not respond to the current crisis", according to the French Ministry of Energy Transition. Behind it also lies the firm commitment of Paris to nuclear energy, which provides about 70% of the country's electricity, despite the fact that now almost half of the reactors are stopped for various reasons.

Or, as put more directly by the Journalist Pablo Del Amo in a tweet:

France opposes Midcat because the country has always been an exporter of electricity, the gas pipeline would take away business. The problem for Paris is that now it is an electricity importer due to its nuclear problem, it needs that connection that Midcat offers it. (Google translate)

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