For a long time I have thought that the public in Western countries would wake up to the absurdity of fossil fuel suppression when the price of energy to the consumer rose high enough. And to a substantial degree that has begun to happen.
But the cost of fossil fuel suppression is not merely a modest degradation in our comfortable lifestyles and impoverishment of the poor. As the situation in Ukraine is now demonstrating, fossil fuel suppression in the U.S., Europe and other Western countries also entails significant empowerment of our most significant geopolitical adversaries, and poses major risks to world security, and even to our national security.
The coming of the Biden administration a year ago brought a full-on government war on the fossil fuel industries: cancellation of pipelines; ending of leasing of mineral rights on government lands and offshore; an order that all government agencies work by regulation to eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2035; threats by bank regulators against banks that lend to the fossil fuel industries; initiatives by the SEC to make it more difficult and costly for industries to use fossil fuels; dozens of initiatives in places like the Department of Energy and Interior Department to block projects using fossil fuels or make them more difficult or costly; and much, much more.
As should have surprised no one, prices of fossil fuels responded by rising dramatically. Prices of crude oil have gone from a range of about $40-60 per barrel during the Trump years to close to $100 per barrel today. U.S. natural gas prices that averaged about $3/MMBtu during the Trump years are now about $4.50 (having spiked over $6 in late 2021). In Europe, where almost all fracking has been suppressed by governments out of supposed concern for the environment, the most recent price for natural gas imports is close to $30/MMBtu
Certainly, a direct impact of these rising prices has been increased costs to the consumer: increased electricity bills, increased home heating bills, increased costs for gasoline for automobiles. For example the average price of regular gasoline at the pump in the U.S. has gone from about $2.25 in January 2021 to about $3.60 today.
But equally important is the degree to which these dramatic rises in energy prices benefit all the worst actors on the world state, starting with Russia. Russia is largely dependent on energy production and exports to the West for its government budget. A year ago, with energy prices in the toilet, Vladimir Putin was basically broke. Today, with energy prices having almost doubled, he is relatively flush. And suddenly we have an invasion of Ukraine, basically financed by Western countries that have suppressed their own production of oil and gas and thus must buy the stuff from Russia.
So why, you might ask, don’t the Western countries just cut off imports from Russia and leave Putin high and dry? The simple answer is that the Western countries have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in wind and solar energy that don’t work and don’t provide the energy needed; so if these countries want to keep their electrical grid running, they need to buy natural gas, which principally comes from Russia.
Consider Germany. Germany adopted its “Energiewende” back in 2010, and fancies itself leading the world to the great clean renewable energy future. Germany’s peak electricity usage is about 90 GW. To supply that, it has built some 65 GW of wind power capacity, and almost 60 GW of solar power capacity. So that’s a total of about 125 GW of generation capacity right there, against peak usage of about 90 GW. Sounds like they have plenty of power from the wind and sun alone to take care of all their needs.
But of course wind and solar don’t work that way. Here in the winter, we have the times of cloudy days, calm winds, and long nights. Here is a chart from Agora Energiewende of Germany’s electricity generation and consumption for the past few days:
It looks like just after the sun set today the wind and sun together were generating less than 5 GW out of that supposed “capacity” of 125 GW. Usage was about 50 GW at the time. Oh, and Germany is also phasing out its nuclear reactors. So aside from those tiny amounts of hydro and “biomass” at the bottom of the chart, that leaves coal, oil and natural gas; or alternatively, a blackout. From Time, today:
Th[e] glaring omission in Biden’s sanctions package could be the consequence of a promise to the countries of Europe, cowering in fear as their dependency on Russian gas renders them impotent to fight back against Russia’s invasion. This is not unreasonable. Germany especially will suffer if Russian gas imports are blocked; Europe imports 40% of its natural gas from Russia, but for Germany it is up to 50%, on top of 45% dependency on Russian coal and 34% on Russian oil. Meanwhile, Germany is continuing to phase out nuclear, making it more reliant on Russian energy imports.
And of course the U.S. can’t supply these European energy needs because the Biden Administration is intentionally suppressing natural gas production here.
Is it time for a little energy realism from the Biden people? Here are the remarks from Climate Envoy John Kerry a couple of days ago as Russia’s Ukraine invasion got underway:
“But it could have a profound negative impact on the climate obviously. You have a war and obviously you’re going to have massive emissions consequences to the war. But equally importantly, you’re going to lose people’s focus, you’re going to lose certainly big country attention because they will be diverted and I think it could have a damaging impact. . . .”
It’s almost impossible to fathom how idiotic and clueless this guy is. And I don’t necessarily mean just to pick on Kerry. It’s all of them, not the least Biden himself.