“Held in a desert in southern Israel, the Supernova Festival was an event that music fans had been excitedly awaiting for weeks. The festival was organized to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The organizers of the festival posted on social media that ‘It’s finally time for the whole family to come together. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Just hours later, the same social media page would be filled with desperate pleas from families searching for their loved ones.” The calendars showed October 7, 2023. After the ‘Aqsa Flood’ attack launched by Hamas on that day, Israel rained bombs on Gaza, killing thousands of Palestinians. Israel has also displaced 1.1 million Palestinians. It bombed the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza (Israel denies this and blames Islamic Jihad); it caused the deaths of more than 500 sick, wounded and children. A new human tragedy continues, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, thousands more wounded and the Gaza Strip razed to the ground. The fact that the attack took place on the day after October 6 has led to intense references in both the domestic and international media to the Israeli-Arab war, known as “Yom Kippur”, which took place exactly 50 years ago.
Yom Kippur War
Starting on October 6, 1973 and lasting until October 25 of the same year, the war is also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli (or October) War. It is also known as the 4th Arab-Israeli war, in reference to the three previous Arab-Israeli wars. The war before Yom Kippur (1967) resulted in Israel capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, nearly doubling its pre-war territorial holdings. The fact that the Hamas attack coincided with the date 50 years ago that ended in frustration and great territorial loss for the Arabs has rightly led to symbolic analogies and interpretations. The question “Is Hamas taking revenge for the 6-Day War?” has been asked and interpreted.
The purpose of this article is not to seek answers to this question. We will try to answer a few other questions on the agenda and those related to energy security: “How far will these conflicts spread? If they spread, how will oil and natural gas prices be affected? What would be the impact on our country? Let us try to evaluate the situation in general terms.
The Arab (or OPEC) Oil EmbargoIn many publications, it is referred to as an “Arab” or “OPEC” embargo, but neither description is “technically” correct. While commonly called the “Arab Oil Embargo” or the “OPEC Oil Embargo”, neither is technically correct. Apart from the Arab countries, Iran also supported the embargo, while OPEC members Venezuela, Iraq and Libya did not participate in the embargo. Saudi Arabia, which had repeatedly met with the US administration to ask the US not to support Israel, was outraged when, on October 18, 1973, President Nixon supported Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s request for $850 million in arms aid from the United States with $2.2 billion in aid. In November 1973, the “full” embargo began and lasted until March 1974. The Arab countries and Iran joined the embargo, which took the form of suspending oil exports to countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa, which had backed Israel in the war. Crude oil, which was around 3 dollars a barrel before the embargo, skyrocketed to 12 dollars in international markets. The inflation rate skyrocketed in the importing countries; long gasoline lines formed. In the US, gasoline prices increased by about 50%.
In the following years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) was established (1974), almost entirely composed of oil-importing countries. In addition to the United States and Turkey, the founding countries were Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. With subsequent accessions, the IEA today has 31 members. The IEA has developed various measures for emergencies, such as creating a common pool of oil (crude oil and products), and has implemented it’s “Collective Action Plan” five times since its establishment. These were realized in response to and to resolve disruptions during the 1991 Gulf War, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 2011 Libyan “civil war”, and (twice) the March and April 2022 Russia-Ukraine Crisis. An appropriate amount of oil was supplied to the markets from the stocks held compulsorily by member countries to offset the impact of supply shortages and the resulting price increases.
How will the Hamas – Israel Conflict Evolve? How will it affect our country?
Let us begin, as we always do, by recalling the share of oil and natural gas in Turkey’s energy mix and the level of external dependence on these sources.
Turkey supplies 27.6% of its primary energy from oil and 30.8% from natural gas. We are 92.2% importdependent on oil and 98.4% import dependent on natural gas. Last year, Türkiye paid 96.6 billion dollars for imports of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and hard coal. In 2022, the average price of crude oil (Brent) was 101 dollars/barrel. This year (2023), while prices were relatively and considerably lower than that of last year (fluctuating between $75-80/barrel), they have recently risen above $93/bbl on October 20, 2023, driven mainly by the concerns related with the Israeli-Hamas war. At the moment, the process is unfolding to the detriment of Türkiye, which has to import significant volumes of oil, gas and coal with increased prices. According to some scenarios, if Hezbollah interferes and eventually Iran gets involved in the conflict, a more unfavorable outlook for oil prices will be inevitable. As a matter of fact, as of October 17, 2023, with a hike of TRY 2.23, diesel prices rose above TRY 40 per liter in Türkiye again. Gasoline prices were also raised by TRY 1.48, effective from October 21.
Since several natural gas import contracts (Azerbaijan, Russia) of Türkiye are indexed to the TTF (70% in the contract formula), they are negatively affected by natural gas price increases in the spot market. Several other agreements are fully indexed to the price of petroleum products; therefore as oil prices rise, so does the bill for natural gas. To make a comparison, the oil price-indexed formula is more favorable for Turkey than the TTF-indexed formula (in the current period). Türkiye also purchases liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the spot market for supply security and resource diversity. The price of natural gas (in the spot market) has increased by around 50 percent in the last month and the price in the TTF futures market has risen to $623 per thousand cubic meters in mid- October 2023. Spot gas purchases also have a major negative impact on our total import bill with the increase in prices.
Considering that natural gas is also used at a high rate in electricity generation (22.2% in 2022) and that there have been very serious subsidies to households and industry for a very long time, it would not be surprising to see a significant increase in both natural gas and electricity prices after the local elections. In addition to these, after the local elections (remembering that natural gas and oil are paid for in dollars), it is clear that the hike rates will bring a significant economic burden due to the effect of the increase in the dollar against the TRY.
- The impact of the Hamas-Israel war on the oil markets in October was that oil prices, which were 85 dollars/barrel on October 6, exceeded 93 dollars/barrel towards the end of October, while natural gas (TTF) prices reached 623 dollars per thousand cubic meters.
- The spread of the conflict to include Lebanon’s Hezbollah will push prices even higher and make Türkiye’s oil and natural gas import bill even larger. This will inevitably lead to higher gasoline and diesel prices, and higher natural gas prices for households and industry (which, despite being heavily subsidized, will be a burden on consumers who are unable to pay).
- In our country, which meets 22.2 percent of its electricity consumption with natural gas (2022 data), electricity prices will inevitably increase with the increase in natural gas prices.
- Price increases will be seen in all industrial products where oil, natural gas and electricity are inputs.
- The Israel-Turkey Natural Gas Pipeline Project, which has recently been reactivated and revived, is unlikely to be reheated in the near and medium term due to the intense reactions against Israel. Neither a joint exploration and drilling activity between Türkiye and Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean (as was announced by the President Erdoğan recently) will be realized. As a matter of fact, Türkiye’s Energy Minister Bayraktar cancelled on 25 October his previously planned visit to Israel.
- Looking at the region where the conflict is intense; Israel’s natural gas fields, such as Tamar and Leviathan, not only meet Israel’s domestic consumption, but also export 7-8 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to Egypt via the Ashkelon – El Arish Pipeline. The fact that Israel has ordered US Chevron, the operator of Tamar, to halt production due to security concerns has the potential to negatively affect exports to Egypt. Due to rapidly growing gas demand, Egypt can only maintain some gas exports to Europe with the contribution of Israeli gas. The loss of Tamar production has so far been covered by other fields, but if the current situation is prolonged and expanded, exports could suffer.
- OPEC+ countries (mainly S. Arabia and Russia) are steadfastly maintaining their supply cut decision to keep oil prices at a level most favorable to their interests at least until the end of the year. Therefore, it would be too optimistic to expect a downward trend in oil prices. The US’s tactic of easing sanctions against Venezuela also does not seem to have contributed much to push the prices down.
- If the conflicts escalate to include Iran; the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than 20 million barrels of oil are exported daily, could be closed by Iran. This “Doomsday Scenario” would send the oil and natural gas prices unpredictably higher, leading to massive disruptions and further price increases.
- Taking into account the energy-related dimension of the issue and our country’s overdependence on oil and natural gas imports, we are going through a period in which we need cold-blooded policies that will be designed in the light of reason and science, far away from hamasas, more than ever before. Turkey needs a balanced approach with a responsible State mind to defend its own interests as was maintained during the Russia Ukraine conflict.
- “What happened at the festival in Israel where 260 people were killed in a Hamas attack?” https://www.bbc.com/turkce/articles/c51l7330100o
- Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement (Purification)