No Minister

Powerless Europe

with 11 comments

No, not powerless in the face of Putin over the Ukraine, although there is a link between the topic of this post and that.

Powerless in terms of energy, although there is both bad and good news.

The Bad News.

Electricity for delivery next year surged as much as 6.4 per cent to an all-time high in Germany, Europe’s biggest power market. France, which usually exports power, will need to suck up supplies from neighboring countries to keep the lights on as severe nuclear outages curb generation in the coldest months of the year.

The crunch is so severe that it’s forcing factories to curb output or shut down altogether. Aluminium Dunkerque Industries France has curbed production in the past two weeks due to high power prices, while Trafigura’s Nyrstar will pause production at its zinc smelter in France in the first week of January. Romanian fertilizer producer Azomures temporarily halted output.

That was in December when 10% of France’s nuclear was taken offline for various minor reasons, with 30% expected later in the winter. As a result French power was already trading at 1,000 euros a megawatt-hour for the month of February.

All of this has been a long time coming, driven mainly by Germany’s mania to appease the Global Warming Gods:

Germany continues its “disastrous” Energiewende transition to a low-carbon or net-zero future by shutting down reliable, resilient, and affordable natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants. In early 2021 German federal government auditors found the “country would need to spend over $600 billion between 2020 to 2025 to maintain grid reliability.” This is on top of the $580 billion already spent by the Germans on Energiewende while closing the Brokdorf, Grohnde, and Gundremmingen zero-carbon nuclear reactors on December 31, 2021.

That last was an especially stupid decision in light of the desire for a zero-carbon future – but it clashed with German politicians living in a 1970’s/80’s anti-nuclear past:

It was only 10 years ago that nuclear power made up almost a quarter of the electricity generated in the country. Following the impact of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown – German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the decision that same year to phase out the country’s nuclear power stations by 2022.

It’s not surprising that France and Germany also ban fracking, as do several smaller western European countries, including Ireland. Britain has also joined the insanity:

Despite the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, the British Oil & Gas Authority (the same government department that banned fracking in 2019) has ordered resource company Cuadrilla to “permanently seal the two shale gas wells drilled at the Lancashire shale exploration site, with the result that the 37.6 trillion cubic metres of gas located in the northern Bowland Shale gas formation will continue to sit unused.”

British politics site Guido Fawkes points out that this self-sabotage is utterly insane since “just 10 percent of this volume could meet U.K. gas needs for 50 years [and] U.K. imports of Natural Gas are expected to skyrocket to over 80 percent by 2050.”

Moreover the emissions from all that imported gas will be greater than for domestically produced gas. To make things even worse the current British Conservative government has decided to follow in the German footsteps on renewable energy, with a goal of Net Zero-Carbon by 2050, with no detail on how CO2 emissions might be absorbed, leaving it all to a 100% production decrease by going all electric with renewable energy. In Britain (not the sunniest of places) that means wind farms – lots and lots of windfarms. How impractical is this?

Renewables just can’t carry this load, as is seen around the world, with this example from Alberta:

At the same time, Alberta’s entire fleet of 13 grid-connected solar facilities, rated at 736 megawatts, was contributing 58 megawatts to the grid. The 26 wind farms, with a combined rated capacity of 2,269 megawatts, was feeding the grid 18 megawatts.

The biggest joke of all of this is that the wind and solar (The Unreliables) result in nations like Germany having to burn more coal and import more gas to run the old parallel energy system, making them dirtier than nuclear-powered France.

But it gets even worse. Modern, industrialised countries that refuse to produce sufficient energy will not survive as independent countries and in the case of Europe it’s produced a geopolitical nightmare:

Gazprom [a Russian state-run energy company] supplied almost a third of all gas consumed in Europe in 2020 and will likely become an even more important source in the short term as the continent shrinks domestic production. Some of the biggest economies are among the most exposed, with Germany importing 90% of its needs.

Which is why Germany has been so keen on working with Russia to build the Nord Stream II gas pipeline (764 miles under the Baltic Sea and costing $11 billion). More Russian energy to the rescue! That pipeline will double the volume of gas pumped by Russian-controlled gas giant Gazprom directly to Germany. And Germany’s largest supplier of coal? Russia, of course.

No wonder Putin felt he could invade Ukraine, that seeming energy stranglehold on the dominant Western European power must have seemed like a trump card.

The Good News

The Ukrainian invasion has done to the Germans what Trump could not do: convince them of their strategic folly.

In a landmark speech on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz spelled out a more radical path to ensure Germany will be able to meet rising energy supply and diversify away from Russian gas, which accounts for half of Germany’s energy needs: “We must change course to overcome our dependence on imports from individual energy suppliers,”

This will include building two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, one in Brunsbuettel and one in Wilhelmshaven, and raising its natural gas reserves… Germany has 24 bcm of underground caverns of gas storage, which are currently around 30% full, according to industry group Gas Infrastructure Europe data.

That’s great news, especially since the USA’s fracking revolution has unlocked vast reserves of gas in the last fifteen years. So much that it crushed LNG prices, resulting in a massive shift from coal to gas for electricity generation, enabling it to beat its Kyoto Treaty targets (a treaty it never signed anyway) and most of the rest of the developed world for CO2 emission reduction. It also caused the USA to convert numerous LNG coastal terminals from import to export capability – just in time to send huge LNG carriers across the Atlantic to Europe.

The Germans have also halted the Nord Stream II project.

But it’s not just gas, as the country’s economy minister Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens, said,

“There are no taboos on deliberations“.

Germany is also weighing whether to extend the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants as a way to secure the country’s energy supply, the country’s economy minister Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens, said.

Habeck also said letting coal-fired power plants to run longer than planned was an option, throwing into doubt Germany’s ambitious exit from coal, which is planned for 2030.

A GREEN said that! Jesus! Talk about a Road To Damascus conversion. Amazing how war can do that. And it’s not just the Germans:

Italy will increase the domestic production of gas and may reopen coal-fired power stations under plans to ensure energy security, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Friday.

The news gets even better:

Soaring energy prices and a geopolitical crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are looming over the European Union’s attempts to agree a raft of tougher climate change laws, raising concerns that some could be delayed or scaled back.

That passive voice is just to make Global Warmist readers not feel too downhearted, but when you look at the impact even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine you can place a sure bet on “delayed or scaled back” – and not just “some” either:

A UN-backed green investment fund is on the brink of failure three months after its launch during the Glasgow climate summit because institutions including big banks never delivered expected seed funding.

Chuckle. Even the dark clouds of Vlad The Impaler have silver linings.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

11 Responses

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  1. And who might be the current leaders in nuclear power development and installation. In order of size of the industry?

    Russia
    China
    Japan
    South Korea

    Russia has 38 nuclear reactors in 11 power stations

    Ros Atom has $138 billion orders from overseas for its reactors.

    Japan and Sth Korea clearly realise they cant rely on the mad West for energy security.

    Eventually nuclear and its derivatives are the only way forward.

    Read about it here at https://notrickszone.com/page/2/
    “Asia goes nuclear while Europe goes bust”

    And in the North Sea what have they found about the environmental impact of all those wind turbines. You guess it. There are some.

    They are altering turbulence patterns down at sea level and in the atmosphere, climate may well change but for other reasons than you think.

    rossco

    March 3, 2022 at 8:47 am

  2. You nearly get it Tom – there is still a piece of the puzzle you haven’t found that might bring greater clarity to the picture

    But a question for you – do you think it is a coincidence that NORD Stream 2, which has been bitterly opposed by the US from the get go is now ready to be commissioned and that is exactly when things blow up in Ukraine thus justifying the mothballing of it?

    Now here’s the thing, as I see it – the West is in rapid decline. The sanctioning of Russia ultimately hurts Europe more far than Russia

    There are a billion Chinese and apart from anything else their young people are better educated in science and technology than their western counterparts – same is true for the Russian young as well as it happens

    Renewables is for the most part are technological dead end

    For Russia there is a ready market for its gas and oil in China and this cannot be easily meddled with by the Western powers

    China manufacture many things including the marvel of our age the silicone chip

    Russia too has that technology

    If Russia is isolated from the West, it will be the west that falls further behind

    I have said this on this blog before, go to any major engineering school in the West and the best and the brightest are Asian boys

    China and Russia have the best civil, electronic and mechanical engineers in the world and the catchment area for their products encompasses probably 2/3rds of the worlds actual population

    Russia is natural resource rich – all that sanctions do is make it economic to develop them

    How long do you think the USA is going to last before it implodes and breaks up?

    Andrei

    March 3, 2022 at 9:19 am

    • @Andrei

      …do you think it is a coincidence that NORD Stream 2, which has been bitterly opposed by the US from the get go

      This is nearly as bad as Wayne’s take on that situation. One of the few US politicians who opposed the pipeline was Trump, precisely because he said it would result in Germany being too reliant on Russia for gas and thereby open to geopolitical blackmail. You think Biden opposed it? As I pointed out several days ago Biden actually went to Congress a few weeks ago to wrangle members not to support the sanctions proposed by the GOP – and the Democrat Party did as Biden asked.

      That’s not “bitter opposition”: not even close.

      No the reason for this attack – if one can divine a rational reason – is that your boy over-estimated the capabilities of his own military and thought he could take Ukraine the way he’s taken smaller places over the years.

      Tom Hunter

      March 3, 2022 at 10:14 am

      • You think Biden opposed it?

        Do you really think Biden is calling the shots?

        And when it comes to “geopolitical blackmail” it takes many forms the major one in recent years being “sanctions” whereby the West, the USA in particular impedes the ability of Nations they do not like to engage in international trade and use this as a lever to try and enforce their will over other sovereign nations.

        The strongest form of “geopolitical blackmail” is military force of course, Gunboat diplomacy, that is what the US Navies Carrier groups are for, their “raison d’etre”

        If we survive this crisis future historians might label this time the era of
        “the pipeline wars”. virtually every trouble spot in the world lies on significant energy resources or the transport routes by which they maybe exported to Europe or the far East

        The US dollar itself only maintains its value because commodity exchanges, energy in particular are conducted through this medium

        Since there is now an oil futures exchange in China where the trades are conducted in renminbi this dollar dominance is under threat

        As for Ukraine it occupies the isthmus between the Black Sea and the Baltic and has been the main transport route for Russian Energy to Europe and this is the real reason for the current crisis

        Andrei

        March 3, 2022 at 11:06 am

  3. I have said this on this blog before, go to any major engineering school in the West and the best and the brightest are Asian boys

    That’s quite true, but it is also true that knowledge and skills like engineering don’t amount to much if the society they’re in does not know how to harness them. The USSR produced huge numbers of engineers and scientists but it didn’t help their economy because communism could not allow them to truly apply independent thinking and make it real in the form of companies. Russia is not communist but it still has that Centralised Command and Control culture where the all-powerful state, based in Moscow, decides what shall and shall not be done. Much as I despise Facebook, Google, Twitter and others, there’s no Russian equivalent crafted by all those clever Russian software engineering graduates.

    And for all its economic success the same remains true of China, although to a lessor degree, and as I pointed out last year in “There is providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America”, Xi Jinping’s similar autocratic desire for control has led him to actually damage Chinese entrepreneurs like Jake Ma.

    I understand your religious reasons for loathing the West in which you live: abortion, transgender and other socially “liberal” ideologies that have come to dominate it and actively destroy its Christian heritage, plus its Western heritage, and I also understand how that ideology has crept even into science, engineering, the military and such.

    But such things are also the result of a free society and as I’m pointing out in this post, such societies can recognise when they’ve made a mistake, although we always seem to have to be pushed to the brink.

    By contrast, placing your faith in the likes of traditional Russian and Chinese society and culture, and the sort of men it produces, like Putin and Xi Jinping, is not going to produce the result you think it will, either for them or the West.

    Tom Hunter

    March 3, 2022 at 10:30 am

    • That’s quite true, but it is also true that knowledge and skills like engineering don’t amount to much if the society they’re in does not know how to harness them. The USSR produced huge numbers of engineers and scientists but it didn’t help their economy because communism could not allow them to truly apply independent thinking and make it real in the form of companies.

      Is that true Tom?

      What the Soviet Union couldn’t produce well was consumer goods, they were afterthoughts

      But they did produce the T34 unquestionably the most effective battle tank of ww2

      And the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovík the best attack aircraft of WW2

      And of course there is the legendary AK47 -cheap to produce and reliable in the field

      The Moscow Metro is the finest Public transport system in the world – if you compare it to the London Tube (which I understand is on strike and not functioning as we speak) or the New York Subway shudder its no contest

      Soviet agricultural machinery is also very fine

      The bridge from the North Caucuses to Crimea is a masterpiece of civil engineering and some Chinese civil engineering projects are just astonishing whereas the London Millennium Bridge, small fry in the scheme of modern bridge building was an embarrassing disaster due an elementary design mistake – it took two years and millions of pounds to rectify that mistake

      So it all depends on what you parameters are

      Today I wouldn’t touch a General Motors product with a barge pole – when it comes to value for money and reliability Toyota (Japan) and Kia (South Korea) hold the crown

      Today also we are seeing Chinese built cars on our roads, a little cheaper than the aforementioned Toyotas and Kias but as to reliability and longevity only time will tell

      I could write a Phd thesis on this

      Andrei

      March 3, 2022 at 1:04 pm

      • What the Soviet Union couldn’t produce well was consumer goods, they were afterthoughts

        I think you’re making my point for me. When supplied with a goal such as building a good tank, plane or rifle, or a public good like the Moscow Metro (my sister raved about the beauty of the stations in 1972 but was not allowed to take photos), then yes, Russian engineers could achieve great things.

        But the West could produce superb tanks like the M1 Abrams, Challenger, Leopard II, and F-15 Eagle fighter, as well as all those consumer goods.

        On a more amusing note I’ll take specific issue with this comment….

        Soviet agricultural machinery is also very fine

        Um… No! I vividly recall my Dad and me looking at a “Belarus” (I think that was the brand) tractor at the Mystery Creek Fielddays back in the 1980’s. They’d been imported as part of a barter deal with the old NZ Dairy Board for milk products shipped to the USSR. I still recall looking at the tow bar, which had not even been trimmed with a grinder, the flakes of metal from the stamping had simply been spray painted. I don’t know of any farmer who bought one although there must have been a few.

        Tom Hunter

        March 3, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      • I suspect without all the technology stolen from the West Russia could not have made a lot of these things.

        For sure it could not have held and defeated the Germans without the vast amount of supplies for their military. Trucks, fighters, and food. Without it Russia would have collapsed.

        The tank and the attack aircraft were good but like most things in that war, leadership was wanting, and simply vast numbers of men were slaughtered using WW1 tactics on both the ground and the air.

        All you need to do is read some of the Russian military stories now available to get a flavour of that

        If we had to rely on Russian technology to win WW2 it would simply not have happened.

        It just reinforces Tom’s point. You need Democracy with all its faults to harness those resouces into a coherent whole.

        I think the GDP of Russia is barley that of Australia, and that makes it close to a failed state given the size of its population

        Rossco

        March 3, 2022 at 4:46 pm

      • No! I vividly recall my Dad and me looking at a “Belarus” (I think that was the brand) tractor at the Mystery Creek Fielddays back in the 1980’s. They’d been imported as part of a barter deal with the old NZ Dairy Board for milk products shipped to the USSR. I still recall looking at the tow bar, which had not even been trimmed with a grinder, the flakes of metal from the stamping had simply been spray painted.

        Aha a product of the Minsk Tractor Works, still going strong BTW

        I don’t know for sure but the part you mock was probably cut from half inch steel plate using a oxyacetylene profile cutter – oh the nostalgia that kicks in, when I was an apprentice I made lots of pipe flanges this way -profile cutter had six cutting torches set to the diameter of the blank apart – the old oxygen bottle used to ice up 🙂 as it cut the blanks – uh oh don’t get me started on pipe flanges I’ll happily bore you shitless all night long so stock up on your favorite poison before you do

        The next stage might be the “fettling”, that is grinding the edges smooth but in this case it would be purely cosmetic, add nothing to the functionality but does add to the cost so why do it?

        There is the thing if you are used to a John Deere tractor, say, those cosmetic things are tidied up but your John Deere might cost twice the Belarus or more to buy – true?

        Let me tell you something about the M1 Abrams Tank you raised – it is powered by a gas turbine, a brilliant piece of kit but and this is a very big “but” if something goes wrong with it or its auxiliary equipment in the field it is highly unlikely the tank crew will be able to repair it in situ
        – it takes a fully equipped workshop and highly trained mechanics to maintain it and keep it working in tip top condition and on a battlefield far from home in sub optimal conditions it might not work out so well

        What do you think?

        Andrei

        March 3, 2022 at 6:28 pm

      • What do you think?

        Oh I agree but the fact is that the US Army knew that in advance and built a massive logistics chain to support that sort of complex machine and proved it during both the Gulf War and the Iraq War when there were severe concerns as to how well the Abrams would work in that environment. But they did.

        It always made me think that any peer competitor to the USA should focus on such logistics chains rather than trying to take out the front-line weapons. Fuel and ammunition trains have always been targets in war of course, but high tech has meant that it perhaps should become the No. 1 target.

        And you’re certainly right that Soviet equipment was designed to keep going under all circumstances, which has always been a vital aspect of warfare, but has been overshadowed by modern high tech warfare – but I can’t see that going backwards even as it seems to open up new risks.

        WRT to the John Deere you’re probably right on the price but I wouldn’t know. But here’s one competitive advantage the Minsk Tractor Factory could go for (glad to hear it’s still working) and that’s against one aspect of high tech complexity that’s going too far; the increasing tendency of JD and others to not allow field fixes by the farmers or contractors who own them. I ran into a little of this in my ag job last year (Subscribing to Immunity):

        While I was working for an agricultural contractor I saw that the big John Deere “choppers” had two thick, heavy plastic “wands” mounted to the central prow of the header and that these could be used to drive the machines through maize fields on automatic pilot. However, when I asked one of the drivers about this feature he scoffed and said they didn’t use it because it meant paying some $US 1500 per year to JD for the related software in the computer system and “It’s not worth it”.

        I’ve read stories of US farmers contacting Eastern European farmers and such who have hacked the systems and can supply the software patches needed, saving valuable hours in the field.

        Tom Hunter

        March 3, 2022 at 6:56 pm

  4. I suspect without all the technology stolen from the West Russia could not have made a lot of these things.

    Or delivered, as in the case of the fabulous Christie suspension system for tanks that the US Army rejected but which the Red Army immediately saw as a brilliant design. It certainly enabled the T-34 to move when the German tanks and their complex interleaved wheel/track systems got stuck.

    But I’ll give them the sloping armour, which nobody else had thought of, even though it’s a simple idea.

    Similarly with the great Mig-15, which used a British jet engine:

    The Soviet aviation minister Mikhail Khrunichev and aircraft designer A. S. Yakovlev suggested to Premier Joseph Stalin that the USSR buy the conservative but fully developed Nene engines from Rolls-Royce (having been alerted to the fact that the U.K. Labour government wanted to improve post-war UK-Russia foreign relations) for the purpose of copying them in a minimum of time. Stalin is said to have replied, “What fool will sell us his secrets?”

    Nothing new under the sun when it comes to capitalists dealing with communists.

    Tom Hunter

    March 3, 2022 at 5:20 pm


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