Could the latest flare-up between Russia's giant gas producer Gazprom (OTC BB: OGZPY.PK) and Ukraine affect you more than you might expect? You can't see me, but I'm nodding my head in the affirmative.
Here's why: I have growing concerns that Russia could make geopolitical mischief in Europe through Gazprom's position as the supplier of about a quarter of the continent's natural gas. This latest dust-up appears to be yet another example of Russia's willingness to be a bullying playmate with other countries or Western companies with which it enters into relationships.
Ukraine's natural gas has been shut off in the dispute, which essentially involves a difference of opinion about Gazprom's desire to raise its charges well above what it levied a year ago -- $179.50 per thousand cubic meters. There's also squabbling over whether Ukraine owes late-payment fines on a bill. What's more, Russia doesn't take kindly to Ukraine's West-leaning government.
Adding to the difficulty is Ukraine's position as a transport point for much of the gas that flows from Russia to Europe. Gazprom is contending that during the shutoff, Ukraine has been siphoning off small amounts of the gas being moved through its borders. Ukraine denies the claim, but several European countries have reported taking in reduced volumes since the dispute began.
How all this will end up is anyone's guess. But when it comes to energy, this dispute appears to be yet another example of Russia's increasingly tough approach. The country has had previous quarrels with Ukraine, along with the corporate likes of ExxonMobil
What does this have to do with energy investments? Well, it indicates yet again the growing geopolitical volatility of the world of oil and gas. Although we've been in a period of relative calm lately, international squabbles rarely lead to lower prices on energy commodities. With that in mind, Fools should pay close attention to the sector and maintain solid oil and gas representation among their investments.
My top pick in the group continues to be the integrated leader of the pack and the biggest of Big Oil, ExxonMobil.
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