By Vijay Jayaraj — October 5, 2021
“On-the-ground weather forecasts contradict the narrative that winters will be milder…. False climate forecasts can lead to chaos due to unpreparedness.”
Right in the midst of a global political effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption, Japan is set to increase its fossil fuel use and imports as an expected colder-than-normal winter approaches.
The country’s meteorological department recently released its weather outlook for the upcoming winter, which expects that most regions will experience either 30-year-average or below average temperatures between December and February.
Climate Narrative vs. Energy Reality
Blind belief in the global warming narrative can catch nations off guard, risking severe energy crises due to unpreparedness. There is an old axiom that says, “Measure twice, cut once.” It reiterates the need for careful planning before embarking on a task. Doing so saves time and energy and prevents mistakes.
The axiom is extremely relevant in energy policy planning. With the ascendancy of the climate global warming narrative, many nations are susceptible to believing climate-model projections that may not reflect real climate, much less actual weather patterns.
On-the-ground weather forecasts contradict the narrative that winters will be milder. A Washington Post article read, “Winters are Shrinking.” Environmental Defense Fund claimed, “Winters are warmer” and “cold streaks are rarer.”
Such false climate forecasts can lead to chaos due to unpreparedness. Texas got suckered into this belief, making the great freeze of February 2021 shocking.
Japan, an energy-intensive country, is one such country where warmer world–milder winters can cause significant disruptions to energy planning. But this country is wise enough not to get caught in this global propaganda. It is aware of the importance of trusting regional weather patterns.
Fossil Fuels Deliver
Fossil fuels are the preferred energy source in many countries for tough winter conditions as they are the only dependable and affordable fuel source—alongside nuclear—in cold and snowy conditions.
Wind turbines work only in certain geographical regions and in certain months when wind speed is optimum. But in cold weather, they are not reliable. According to the government of Canada,
the operation of wind turbines in a cold climate such as Canada’s involves additional challenges not present in warmer locations, such as: Accumulation of ice on wind turbine blades resulting in reduced power output and increased rotor loads; Cold weather shutdown to prevent equipment failure; and Limited or reduced access for maintenance activities.
For these reasons countries like China and Japan depend heavily on coal, natural gas, and oil, instead of the highly unreliable wind and solar. The Japanese authorities know they cannot leave millions to freeze in the cold and have decided to stock up enough fossil fuels to sustain during the winter. S&P Global notes, “Japan’s demand for coal, LNG, crude and fuel oil for power generation as well as city gas and kerosene for heating was robust in January as a result of severe cold spells.” The scenario is likely to repeat this year.
Other Countries Too
Winter energy crises across are of great concern the world over. The Japanese are very close to China, a country which in recent years has experienced severe energy shortages during winters due to its reluctance to increase coal consumption. A partial coal ban in northern provinces caused severe winter heating problems in recent years.
This year, news agencies in China predict widespread power blackouts in more than a dozen provinces as the country is critically short of coal and some power plants have stopped producing coal power due to high coal prices.
Japan, which has a bird’s eye view, is aware of the power shortage in China. So, to avoid similar situation at home, Japan will not restrict the use of coal, natural gas and oil during winter months.
The demand for oil and gas is not just in Japan. The UK, too, is highly reliant on imported natural gas for winter heating needs, and analysts have urged the country to secure its resources before winter induces a power demand surge.
“If the winter is actually cold, my concern is we will not have enough gas for use for heating in parts of Europe. … it won’t only be a recessionary value, it will affect the ability to provide gas for heating. It touches everybody’s lives,” said Amos Hochstein, the US State Department’s senior adviser for energy security.
The Future is Now
The combined rise in demand for fossil fuels from Europe, China, India, Vietnam, and Japan has led to an increase in coal and natural gas prices. Investors see a “natural-gas crunch spilling into crude market, lifting oil prices.” OPEC, in its newly released World Oil Outlook 2045, observes that “oil will be leading energy source for decades (at least until 2045) as crude reaches 3-year highs.”
The demand for fossil fuels and the sharp increase in fossil fuels prices indicate that these energy fuels still dominate the global energy sector. The winter rush for fossil fuels also confirms their effectiveness in delivering reliable energy during cold weather.
COP26 planners, are you listening?
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and resides in Bengaluru, India. His previous posts at MasterResource can be found here.