Renewable energy is not yet ready for prime time, and mistakenly thinking that is has meant that coal, the dirtiest of energies, has had to pick up the slack. From Clarice Feldman at americanthinker.com:
There’s scarcely a place in the modern world that will not be feeling the high cost and discomfort of a shortage of energy supplies and their increasingly soaring prices. Lebanon already is. Due to a shortage of oil, the two power plants that supply 40% of that country’s electricity shut down. There is no electricity in Lebanon and will not be any for some days.
It’s an extreme case, but even the United Kingdom, the EU, the U.S., and China are running up against diminishing ability to obtain the necessary energy supplies to keep things running smoothly. Some of the shortages are due to accidents, like the cutting of an undersea cable to the UK, but most are due to green policies and stupid political choices, ironically shutting down oil and gas-fired power plants and fossil fuel exploitation and transport at the demand of the greens, who grossly overestimate both global warming and the ability of air, sun and water to take their place. Ironically, this means coal — the dirtiest possible fuel — is back in huge demand,
Despite an import ban on Australian coal, China relented and has begun unloading Australian coal because of an extreme power crunch. Coal is now in demand in Europe as gas prices soar and the EU’s energy policies are in large responsible:
The ideological split will drive a wedge between the European Union, a long-time champion of a coal phaseout, and corporate interests as market conditions favour gas-to-coal switching. The switching ratio has slid in coal’s favour in the last weeks of June 2021 and judging by the current futures structure, it will stay in place until at least Q2-2022 [snip] Given the natural limitations to further coal utilization, in Germany the main interaction in the upcoming weeks will be between coal and wind. Coal-fired electricity generation rose to multi-year highs in the first weeks of September when every single day saw wind generation only a fraction of its usual strength and speed. Now, the situation has changed somewhat as wind started blowing again, dropping hard coal generation to an average generation rate of 7.5-8 GWh, still some 30-35% higher than at this time of the year in 2020. Yet still, Germany’s travails are far from over, especially with December looming large on the horizon. According to preliminary plans, that month alone three nuclear plants will stop operating in Germany — Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen — with a combined (non-intermittent) capacity of 4 GW, representing the penultimate wave of nuclear phase-out closures before 2022 sees the last 3 reactors decommissioned. Such substantial capacity would need to be replaced with either coal or gas, with profitability skewed overwhelmingly towards the former. [snip]
The current coal demand surge should force the European Union to reconsider its position on coal — as polluting as it might be, it could still help alleviate energy crunches across Europe when the situation demands it. As things stand today, the upcoming four years would see at least seven countries phasing out coal: Portugal (2021), France (2022), UK (2024), Hungary, Italy, Ireland and Greece (all 2025). As Europe has seen nine consecutive year-on-year increases in aggregate coal burns, perhaps more switching flexibility and less bans could still be the way forward.
Europe is in danger of becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of continents. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:
Does Europe possess the energy and the humility to look itself in the mirror, and re-position itself diplomatically?
Two events have combined to make a major inflection point for Europe: The first was America’s abandonment of the Great Game ploy of attempting to keep the two Central Asian great land powers – Russia and China – divided and at odds with each other. This was the inexorable consequence to the US’ defeat in Afghanistan – and the loss of its last strategic foothold in Asia.
Washington’s response was a reversion to that old nineteenth century geo-political tactic of maritime containment of Asian land-power – through controlling the sea lanes. However America’s pivot to China as its primordial security interest has resulted in the North Atlantic becoming much less important to Washington – as the US security crux compacts down to ‘blocking’ China in the Pacific.
The Establishment-linked figure, George Friedman (of Stratfor fame), has outlined America’s new post-Afghan strategy on Polish TV. He said tartly: “When we looked for allies [for a maritime force in the Pacific] on which we could count – they were the British and the Australians. The French weren’t there”. Friedman suggested that the threat from Russia is more than a bit exaggerated, and implied that the North Atlantic NATO and Europe are not particularly relevant to the US in the new context of ‘China competition’. “We ask”, Friedman says, “what does NATO do for the problems the US has at this point?”. “This [the AUKUS] is the [alliance] that has existed since World War II. So naturally they [Australia] bought American submarines instead of French submarines: Life goes on”.
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Tagged AUKUS, Australia, China, Europe, Great Britain, Russia
Are European countries tired enough of being US government poodles that they form a military alliance with teeth and occasionally tell Washington to go jump in a lake? From James Carden at zerohedge.com:
Any answer must begin with France’s role in the EU and include the US withdrawal from Afghanistan…
Just what shape Germany’s governing coalition will take is still unclear in the aftermath of the September 26 election, which saw the Social Democrats (SPD), led by finance minister Olaf Scholz, come away with just over a quarter of the vote, at 25.7 percent. The balance of power in Germany is now held by the Greens and the Free Democrats, which, taken together, received more votes than the victorious SPD or the Christian Democratic Union, the party of outgoing Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.
The one thing that is certain is that after 16 years in power, Merkel will soon exit the scene. So the question that now arises is: What shape will post-Merkel Europe take?
Any answer must begin with an eye on the Élysée Palace, as French President Emmanuel Macron is set to become the senior most partner in the Franco-German partnership that has steered the EU since its founding in 1993.
There may be major changes afoot should Macron, motivated by the insult handed to him by the United States, the UK and Australia with AUKUS—a new trilateral security alliance—pursue his oft-stated desire for European strategic autonomy. As former State Department official Max Bergmann recently observed, AUKUS served to “empower stakeholders in Paris who advocate for a much cooler relationship with Washington and—tapping into the Gaullist foreign policy tradition—wish to be allied with the United States, but not necessarily aligned on key issues related to Russia and China.”
Nobody can play you for a sucker without your consent. Germany is defended by the US military because the US government wants Germany to be dependent on it as an essential component of the global empire. From Mike Mish Shedlock at mishtalk.com:
Let’s discuss Germany, NATO, defense spending, the EU, and a return to historical allies highlighted by Aukus.
America’s New Strategy
Excellent video podcast by George Friedman on Aukus, NATO, the EU, and America’s New Strategy.
For background on the following video, please see The Aukus Submarine Crisis Take II, Triumph of the British
- When we look at the allies we can count on, they were not the French. They were the British and the Australians. The French weren’t there.
- We ask the question what does NATO do for the problems the US has at this point?
- NATO is weakened by the Europeans. To have a military alliance, you have to have a military.
- The NATO countries don’t have force enough to help up. Nor are they interested in spending the money.
- Germany is the fourth largest country in the world. They should not have to be defended by the United States. They can defend themselves.
- There is no common European foreign policy. So we are looking for a new relationship.
- This [Aukus] is the one that existed since World War II. So naturally they [Australia] bought American submarines instead of French submarines. Life goes on.
- Europe has left us with no choice. First, there is no Europe. There is a bunch of countries in Europe.
- Second, they take actions based on their own national interests.
- It is not a case of the US adopting this strategy [Aukus], it is the strategy of Europe.
- You can only be bilateral, there is no Europe to work with.
Any time you see the words “energy crisis” you can bet with absolute assurance that it’s somehow government caused. From Bill Blain at morningporridge.com:
For many months myself and many of the investors I work with have become increasingly concerned at the growing instability and insecurity of energy markets. The 4 times spike in Gas prices this year has been a shocking wake-up call, highlighting energy insecurity in Europe and particularly the UK. Gas prices will remain elevated for months to come. The consequences are going to be brutal – and fatal for some.
Energy – whether derived from fossil fuels, nuclear or renewables – is a commodity and the critical thing about commodities is: “You can’t print commodities like you can print money. The rules are not the same,” says my good friend and head of commodities at Shard, Ashley Boolell.
Commodities are volatile and dangerous. Oil has doubled in recent months. But the thing about Gold, Silver, Palladium and copper prices is; no matter how volatile they are, they are simply investment opportunities or traps, and are unlikely to kill us.
Energy is different. It can kill us.
That was conclusively demonstrated earlier this year in Texas. A swift series of winter storms crashed the Texan grid when gas infrastructure failed in the cold, renewables weren’t delivering, and the deregulation of its energy system had delinked Texas from both US power Grids – making it difficult to import energy. Over 200 people died as a result of power outages.
Fast forward to this winter, and the UK and Europe are in the direct firing line of the coming energy storm. The security of energy supplies has never looked less certain. In the UK, neglected storage means we have the capacity to story 3-4 days of Gas. The recent collapse in sterling has been linked to the panic over Petrol supplies, escalating and cascading supply chain failures impacting industry and growing woes blamed on Brexit. I would add questions about how the UK’s status as a first world economy with zero energy security will line up.
Wasn’t Orange Man bad because he said Europeans should pay more for their own defense? And wasn’t Senile Man good because he’d be the opposite of Orange Man? Things aren’t working out that way for Europe. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
The Europeans are in a whiny mood. So what else is new, you ask? True, but the Biden presidency was supposed to be a halcyon time for Euro-enthusiasts.
Senator and Vice President Joe Biden was the ultimate Atlanticist. Candidate Biden ran promising to restore America’s alliances, widely interpreted as doing ever more for and giving ever more to Washington’s well-pampered defense dependents across the pond. His expected secretary of state even spoke French. “Happy days are here again!”, declared the continent’s Eurocratic elite as they celebrated Biden’s victory last November.
Alas, that was then, this is now. Tragically, to the Europeans, anyway, President Biden decided that his main responsibility was to the American people. Early in his tenure he held a summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to improve relations, horrifying Eastern European governments. Biden also dropped sanctions against Germany over its Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project with Moscow, abandoning a distasteful example of economic bullying but triggering extended caterwauling in Kiev.
The president decided to withdraw from Afghanistan without asking the Europeans for permission. Then came the Australian submarine deal, in which the U.S. trumped France’s diesel submarines with nuclear vessels. The latter both makes money for Americans and reinforces the ongoing Pentagon shift away from Europe to Asia.
The result has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially from the French. Perfidy, screamed America’s oldest ally. Feeling scorned and humiliated, President Emmanuel Macron, up for reelection next year, ordered home the French ambassador “for consultations,” the diplomatic equivalent of a raised middle finger. Macron and Biden subsequently held a conciliatory phone call, but hard feelings are likely to linger.
The AUKUS countries—Australia, the UK, and the US—bypassed a lot of European countries who have demonstrated very little commitment to their own or anyone else’s defense. From Soeren Kern at gatestoneinstitute.org:
- If an authoritarian nation, such as China, displaces America as the dominant global power, then democracies all over the world will feel the consequences.” — Gideon Rachman, columnist, Financial Times.
- “Too many European elites still do not want to admit that democracies are in a systemic rivalry with autocracies. Refusing to acknowledge reality is convenient for them since it justifies their inaction. But we need to do the opposite and double down in our defense of democracies.” — Andreas Fulda, China expert, University of Nottingham.
- “The US thinks about how to contain China. And Australia too is in the position of thinking about how one contains, as opposed to how one accommodates; that’s the fundamental difference with France. As a consequence, the US looks like the better partner.” — Richard Whitman, professor of politics and international relations, University of Kent.
- “I think it was the only option for Australia because the French were not going to annoy or unnecessarily irritate Beijing. They wanted trade, economic, and investment relations. Now, Australia will have the capability to sink the Chinese navy in 72 hours; that’s what this is all about. The Chinese know they have been outmaneuvered, and they’re very angry. In a very short period of time, Australia has gone from a doormat to something very considerable — it’s an extraordinary development.” — Joseph Siracusa, geopolitical analyst, Sky News Australia.
- “The lesson of the past few weeks is that the world does not run on Brussels time, with its long periods for consultation, courteous attention to the electoral cycles of 27 countries, and sacrosanct weekends, evenings, and lunch breaks.” — Edward Lucas, Europe analyst, Center for European Policy Analysis.
- “France underestimated how China’s naked military ambition, chronic disregard for international order, and barely concealed aspirations to control the deep Pacific and Antarctica pushed Australia to make tough decisions about the future.” — Craig Hooper, geopolitical analyst, Forbes.
- “It is hard to overstate the importance of the so-called Aukus alliance between the US, the UK and Australia — and the implicit geopolitical disaster for the EU.” — Wolfgang Münchau, commentator, The Spectator.
It’s perhaps not wise to throw out your existing hydrocarbon sources of energy until the new, green sources of energy are up to the job of replacing them. Especially when of your prime sources of hydrocarbons—Russia—doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. From Cyril Widdershoven at oilprice.com:
Europe’s energy crunch is continuing, as gas storage volumes have shrunk to 10-year lows. A possible harsh winter could lead to severe energy shortages and possible shutdowns of large parts of the economy.
While the main discussion is currently focused on the potential role of Russia in the energy crisis, a new narrative could soon make the headlines. In a surprise move, the Dutch government has indicated that in a severe supply crunch situation, the Groningen gas field, Europe’s largest onshore gas field, could partially and temporarily be reopened. It seems that the term Dutch Disease could get a new meaning, from being the paradox of a rentier state suffering from plentiful resources to a show of Europe’s lack of realism when it comes to energy transition risks and current market powers. Dutch Minister Stef Blok has indicated that he is considering the potential reopening of the Groningen field, in particular five wells, especially the one at Slochteren, as indicated by Johan Attema, director of the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), the operator of the Groningen field. The reopening of the field, even in the case of an emergency or an energy crisis, is politically controversial.
Until recently, the plan was that Groningen would be closed completely by 2023, ending the large-scale gas production and export by the Netherlands with a bang.
The Dutch media is speculating that minister Blok will be asking for a possible reopening of the Groningen field, a decision that must be made before October 1. If the Minister decides to change the current shutdown plans, the whole Groningen debacle, as some see it, will be prolonged. It is clear, looking at the current deplorable situation of the European energy sector, that Groningen is still needed. The ongoing energy crunch could have grave consequences for the economies and wellbeing of EU member states, changing the narratives in Brussels and the respective European capitals.
Gazprom may or may not be withholding gas from Europe, but high prices and spot shortages before winter should seal the deal for Nordstream 2 early next year. From Charles Kennedy from oilprice.com:
Russian gas giant Gazprom dismisses speculation and accusations that it is not supplying enough natural gas via pipeline to Europe, a senior official at Gazprom Export says.
So far in 2021, Gazprom’s gas deliveries to Europe have reached historic highs, Sergey Komlev, Head of the Contract Structuring and Pricing Directorate at Gazprom Export, wrote in an article for Gazprom’s corporate magazine, as carried by Russian news agency TASS.
Germany, Turkey, and Italy—some of Gazprom’s largest customers—all boosted imports of Russian gas in the first half of 2021, the manager said.
Gazprom’s exports to European countries rose by 23.2 percent between January and July, Komlev added.
“These figures prove the absurdity of accusing Gazprom of supply shortage,” the executive noted.
Europe is grappling with soaring natural gas and electricity prices ahead of the winter heating season due to tight gas supplies, very low gas inventories, and low wind power generation amid still weather.
The Biden administration is sending a schmuck to convince our allies that the Biden administration isn’t full of schmucks. From Finian Cunningham at strategic-culture.org:
Washington’s whirlwind outreach is evidently an effort to shore up confidence among U.S. allies in American defense commitments.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the Middle East and Europe this week in an effort to repair the damage to Washington’s standing with its allies following the disastrous retreat from Afghanistan.
The top U.S. diplomat first goes to Qatar, the Persian Gulf state which has served as a forward – and now backward – operating base for the Pentagon during its military occupation of Afghanistan. Blinken then travels to the giant U.S. airbase at Ramstein, Germany, which was also a vital logistics hub for prosecuting America’s “longest war” – a war that ended in spectacular failure last month. There he will meet German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ahead of a virtual conference with other European officials on the challenges posed by postwar Afghanistan.
Blinken’s itinerary will overlap with that of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who is also visiting Qatar and the other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Washington’s whirlwind outreach is evidently an effort to shore up confidence among U.S. allies in American defense commitments. The dramatic and hasty pullout from Afghanistan by the Biden administration has left allies wondering if their American patron can be trusted when the chips are down.