Britain is drawing up plans with the US and other European countries to “disarm” the threat of President Vladimir Putin using Russian gas and oil supplies as “a weapon” against Ukraine and its Eastern European neighbours.
Next month, David Cameron and other G7 leaders are expected to sign off on an “emergency response plan” to assist Ukraine this winter if Russia restricts gas supplies.
At the same time, G7 energy ministers this week agreed a plan to eliminate Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas over the longer term and prevent energy security being used as political bargaining chip by the Kremlin.
Russia currently supplies around 30 per cent of all gas consumed within Europe and more than 50 per cent of the gas used by Ukraine.
In 2006, when the Russian state-controlled energy producer Gazprom turned off supplies through its Ukrainian pipeline Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland reported gas pressure in their pipelines fell by 30 per cent.
While only a small fraction of gas used by the UK comes from Russia, any restriction in supply has a dramatic impact on prices.
Under the G7 proposals, support would be given to build several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals across Europe, while the US would lift restrictions on the export of shale gas.
At the same time, the EU will invest in new pipelines to move gas from West to East and increase supply routes from North Africa.
Japan is also understood to be prepared to re-start some of its nuclear plants that were mothballed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japan is now one of the largest importers of LNG, which has pushed up prices to record levels.
Senior Government sources said the ongoing crisis had “concentrated minds”, particularly in Europe, over the energy threat and said there was for the first time a “clear consensus” to take action.