UK says world needs to cut dependence on Russian gas, calls for G7 action

LONDON, April 22 Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:01am EDT

LONDON, April 22 (Reuters) - Britain said on Tuesday Russia was using it status as an energy superpower to hold other countries to ransom and that a meeting of the G7 group of countries next month had to find a way to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

In comments published by the Times newspaper, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said Britain would use the meeting to promote a global plan for developing alternative energy sources and supply networks to try to curb Russia's ability to wield its gas reserves as a geopolitical tool.

The G7 group of leading industrialised economies has made improving energy security a priority after Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and fears Moscow could cut off supplies to Ukraine if the dispute deepens.

"It can't be right for Russia to hold individual countries to ransom," said Davey. "There have been at least two, if not three, occasions in recent times when Russia has sought to use its energy superpower status in quite an aggressive manner."

Russia supplies around a third of Europe's gas, some 40 percent of which it ships through Ukraine.

G7 energy ministers will meet in Rome on May 5-6.

"It is a real opportunity to show Russia we mean business by improving our energy security and resilience," said Davey.

"We have got to look at everything, from more diversified supplies of gas, whether it's from the U.S., from shale, or helping other countries who are demanding a lot of gas now but who needn't. Maybe Japan will turn on some of its (nuclear) reactors."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Russian lawmakers on Tuesday that talk of Europe importing gas from the United States was a bluff, and Moscow was more interested than ever in diversifying destinations for its natural gas exports.

Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom said it would be able to meet Europe's rising demand for gas thanks to new projects, even as the bloc signalled it was looking elsewhere.

Britain itself would be well placed to deal with any Russian cutoff Britain as it gets most of its imports from Norway.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Heavens)

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