Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: September 2021 has been an interesting month as energy supply crunches of all forms appeared all over the world. China is suffering from rolling power outages that are affecting residents and industry and the authoritarian government there has ordered traders and industry to secure as many energy supplies as quickly as possible. In Europe prices for electrical power and natural gas are climbing to record highs and in the UK petrol stations are running out of petrol to sell to consumers. Pressure on energy prices is starting to manifest itself in the United States as well, with California already experiencing an increasing number of rolling brownouts, sorry “flex alerts“. Traders are starting to buy options on future contracts for oil at $200 / bbl. They are not far off, with natural gas prices in Europe in terms of energy equivalent at $140 / bbl (see note 1).
So, what’s going on in the world? Not enough government progs or bureaucrats, not enough Canadian bankers (shout out to the economists and analysts at BMO and Scotiabank) and not enough woke people read, let alone understand the OWOE blogs. Everything that has passed in September with respect to energy has been foretold in one of our blogs.
Let’s consider Europe and in particular Germany and its natural gas crunch. For Europe, I think that the commentators at the Daily Beast summarized it well by acknowledging that Europe got itself into this position where almost the entire continent is reliant on Russia’s gas supply and then the commentators at DW realized that Europe is over a barrel with respect to gas supplies. Contrast that realization with the best German response to the possibility that Russia could use gas as a weapon, a stern finger wagging and moralizing from former chancellor Angela Merkel. That admonishment by the brittle chancellor resulted in me smacking my forehead again. Have classical learnings been forgotten by Europe’s politicians? The dictum by Thucydides about 2500 years ago that the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must is, and always will be, relevant in politics, finance and energy: it is always pointless to negotiate from a position of weakness.
What’s worse is that the carbon pricing schemes in Europe, coupled with the power shortages are forcing a resurgence in coal fired power production (see Powergen International and DW Academie). It gets worse. In Germany not one new wind turbine has been installed offshore in all of 2021 to date. It is as if Western European energy strategy has been derived from a Monty Python sketch. I will wager anyone that this year CO2 emissions in Germany will rise. So much for the vaunted Energiewende.
There are some bright spots in Europe. France for one, seems to be doing things right with respect to low carbon energy, by planning to accelerate the introduction of more nuclear power into its energy mix. Often overlooked, the Balkan states and Greece are starting to successfully supplant traditional carbon based energy with renewable and sustainable green energy. They have the advantage of small populations and without heavy industry do not need as much energy per capita as the northern European states.
But can the general European energy incompetence infection spread to America? It already has, and California is probably most afflicted by it. In an article by CNBC lamenting the imminent closing of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the reader should note that the Diablo Canyon plant provides about 9% of California’s electricity while coal still provides about 3% of California’s energy. Closing which kind of power plant will have the fastest positive impact to greenhouse gas levels while simultaneously maintaining the most power to California residents? The answer, for the government progs, bureaucrats and Canadian bankers, is of course close the coal plants before the nuclear ones. The irony again is that California this year has been rapidly adding gas powerplants to its energy mix. Paraphrasing Greta Thunberg, “It’s all bunny blah, blah” (see note 2).
What of Canada? By default, in spite of politically imposed constraints to its oil and gas industry, Canada should receive a bit of a revenue windfall because of global prices for those commodities. Furthermore, Canada‘s exports of coal, ostensibly coking coal, increased by about 21% in 2020 alone and will probably increase again this year bringing more revenue to government coffers. I remind the reader that North America’s largest coal export terminal is in Vancouver, B.C. and that coal is by far the worst fuel source to burn (coking or thermal) in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet while the woke mobs in B.C. fight against oil and gas pipelines, they are woefully blind to coal exports. Perhaps too many Renminbi are flowing through B.C. and Ottawa?
Something that could be bad for central Canada is if, somehow, Michigan finally manages to shut down Line 5, which Michigan is entirely within its legal right to do, and entirely with environmental imperative to do. I have written before that underwater pipelines are the worst kind of pipelines to have and the tragedy unfolding in California now, because of an underwater pipeline breach should remind people that Line 5 really needs to be shut down now: Not tomorrow, not next month, not after umpteen more court appeals, now.
Something that is bad for Canada in so many ways, especially energy transition is the current Federal Liberal government led by the weak, progressive, Justin Trudeau (see BBC News and CBC News and note 3). Trudeau is progressive and Canadians are progressing into poverty. But I’ll write more on that matter in a future blog (or in a declaration of Western Canadian independence).
So many wrong decisions are being made by the politicians, by the woke mob, that I am considering establishing another blog site and YouTube channel along the lines of “Our World of Stupid Energy Decisions“. Green is better, but green overnight is impossible. The result of all this government and mob incompetence will be a catastrophic energy crunch that will set back the green movement for a long time. My other disclosure to readers is that I do not own any coastal property or property lower than 80m above sea level.
Vive l’Alberta Libre!
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: At OWOE we try to be objective in our analysis and evaluations of energy matters. But we can’t always be emotionless, or in my case, I can’t always refrain from smacking my forehead when politicians do questionable things: I’ve been near comatose for the last few weeks on account of the politicians.(more…)
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Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: Most readers have probably heard of the Law of Unintended Consequences, the more good that one intends then the more harm results (see also the Cobra Effect). Politicians have an intrinsic ability to apply this without fail. Then to make everything worse, there is Pournelle’s Law of Iron Bureaucracy, ensuring that even the slightest of good intentions are inevitably smashed by the insufferable protocols of bureaucracy. Such is the realm of politicians. But in the information age, the woke minority and sometimes business tycoons also suffer from these laws. Business tycoons can correct for such things, otherwise they go bust. Woke progs will often ignore reason and facts, those remnants of patriarchal suppression, in order to validate horrific outcomes. Eventually, though, the smoldering landscape or the increasing number of coal plants being built in Asia should overwhelm Woke feelings. Unfortunately, politicians and governments are with us for as long as their privilege and pensions last and they rarely admit mistakes let alone mitigate or fix them.(more…)
OWOE Staff:The energy world has been rocked by a number of crucial events during the past two months. In the transition to renewable energy and more particularly in the removal of fossil fuels form the energy mix, there are possibly three history-making game changers:
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Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Pipeline politics have come to dominate energy discussions domestically and internationally. Probably the most well-known of these are the Nordstream 2 Pipeline in the Baltic to bring Russian Gas to Germany and of course the Keystone XL Pipeline which would have brought more Canadian Heavy Oil to American Refineries. Believe it or not, pipelines can bring benefits. For Nordstream 2 it will bring Russia a new vassal state. Keystone XL, had billions in money set aside to utilize renewable power and hire unionized workers; It would have been the world’s first “net-zero” pipeline and probably the world’s first equity built pipeline. Unfortunately, for both pipelines the tactical thinking won out over the strategic benefit.(more…)
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Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Since 2016, OWOE staff have been watching energy markets change as new technologies and phenomenon entered society, or as old problems and business practices ossified. While 2020 was a wild year that laid bare the ineffectiveness of most major governments to handle crisis, it also exposed some of the fallacies upon which western societies are built: Namely the need for business executives to fly around the world for meetings, the need for hordes of people to commute to digital jobs, and of course the lack of economic robustness in most realms. For certain, the pandemic surge and economic drop of 2020 that cut travel, commuting and similar highly energy intense activities resulted in a major drop in oil demand (Reuters, US BLS), and a noticeable drop in CO2 emissions along with a corresponding improvement in overall air quality in many urban settings. But, and here’s the real issue, as the pandemic ends, energy demand is increasing again.(more…)
Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: The last decade has seen an explosion of new digital tech incessantly infiltrating all areas of our lives. There were cells phones before 2010 as well as websites and such, but with the advent of smart phones, 5G, the internet of things, everything is now wirelessly connected. New things such as crypto currency and EVs have also made significant inroads into society in the last 10 years. Many of these technologies are, of course, promoted as green and helping the world. Such is always the case when new technologies arise, and there are enough people to advocate for their favorite thing: Bud or Bud Light, Democrat or Republican, Trudeau fan or intelligent person.(more…)