A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Reality

Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: For some time, I’ve written in previous blogs that the world has gone nuts with respect to energy policies and proclamations. Too much emphasis is on a speedy , if not immediate, Green Energy transition that does not mesh with physical reality. Politicians are master tacticians but lousy strategists and while the world needs more green and renewable energy and associated products, the world is instead starting to see uncontrolled cost increases, supply chain bottlenecks, and increasing local opposition to energy salvation. Reality bites.

There is of course that vaunted Energiewende in Germany, which became the defacto rallying cry of Greenies everywhere until last year when the Energiewende went into reverse.  CO2 emissions in Germany climbed as the Germans found it necessary to restart lignite coal power plants. A German invented the term “Realpolitik” to describe how West Germany needed to work with East Germany during the Cold War. I wonder if German bureaucrats are now talking about “Realenergie” when they face cold winters?

Looking at the past year in Germany, we see that by luck they have suffered through a comparatively mild winter. This has reduced their demand for natural gas for heating and has allowed the Germans to stave off industrial collapse for at least another winter. By some miracle of modern engineering, which also runs contrary to recent German projects, the Germans managed to build a complete FSRU (floating storage and regasification unit) in 6 months. I’m sure that the Russkies, as was I, were betting that it would have taken the modern German state at least 10 years to do that, especially in light of their recent mishandling of the BER (Berlin-Brandenburg) airport (see CNN.com and BBC.com), the rail system  (see DW.com and Pedestrian Observations), the Puma combat vehicle, etc. The list is very long of modern German project failures. (See the Aside for an example of a successful joint German and European project undertaking.)

But while one FSRU facility is commendable, the reopening of coal mines and coal fired power plants is shameful, especially since the power added to the grid in this time of energy emergency is about the same as the amount of power taken off the grid by the shuttering of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants in the name of Green today.

Then there are the much-heralded massive offshore windfarms announced for America, China, Japan, and Europe. It seemed like old statecraft brinksmanship, but instead of battleships of the last century, governments are competing with wind farm capacity. This, of course, has run into serious logistical and supply problems (see WEForum.org and HeavyLift.com), but even so, these ambitious offshore wind targets haven’t kept the Wind Industrial Complex from seducing local, regional and national governments with tales of boundless clean energy and good jobs for all. Never mind the consumer ratepayers nor the previously negotiated contracts or subsidies, the government must pay for the Wind Inustrial Complex to thrive.

Even the once hastily scorned nuclear power industry is making a surprising though necessary comeback. Nuclear power, which until recently has been so frightening, has now become a reliable supply of clean and green base-load energy to sustain civilization.

Excluding Canada, oil production and deal-making has increased in Autocratic states (see Iraq Business News, RT.com, and Barrons) where they often don’t give a hoot about how they pollute (Venezuelan oil for instance). Canada is one of the global leaders in “…ESG (environment, social, governance) best practices, health and safety standards and general field operations”. But, of course, ideology in Canada pushes oil production elsewhere.

When it comes to natural gas at home, the discussions around the banning of gas furnaces and cookstoves has started (see LATimes.com, wsj.com, and wsj.com), while in Canada, the Chinese Communist Party guided Liberal Party zealots in Ottawa have gone on the warpath against fertilizers and farmers. They are smarter in Ottawa, because without fertilizer there is no food and without food there is no need for gas stoves.

In mid-2022, Germany went cap-in-hand to Canada asking for increased (the start of) LNG exports to Germany and the EU. That led to naught (see OWOE blog). Most recently, Japan went to Canada cap-in-hand to ask for increased (the start of) LNG exports to Japan. This too led to naught, and Canada couldn’t even promise gasified ocean water exports to Japan.

In strategic decision making the wrong question is “What did you do for us”? The better question is “What can you bring to the table today and what will you be able to bring to the table tomorrow?” The world by now has probably realized that while Canada did good things in the past, it cannot do good things now nor in the future. Canada is no longer a dependable ally to capitalist and democratically oriented nations (see Business Council of Alberta and MLI.com). Canada, eh?

Everywhere the race to green energy appears to be hitting the wall of reality. The proclamation of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 sounded loud and proud in Washington in 2021.  Soon after the lofty goal was announced, industry began questioning the reality of physical plant, equipment, material, available skilled labor and many other factors. On local fronts, opposition to green energy projects is growing (see Forbes.com and NYTimes.com).  The solution to local objections appears to be having more top-down edicts. This will not be good for society in the long run.

All politicians overpromise and underdeliver, and it becomes the chore of the electorate to decide the degree of promises and delivery they can likely expect. But the race to Green Energy could leave people in the dark because of this political tendency to speak first and think later. Instead of cutting gas stoves, how about grounding private jets?  Instead of mandating fertilizer reductions, how about cutting the fanciful green plans from woke politicians?  As I’ve always argued, Green Energy is better in many ways, but rushing a Green Energy transition is worse in many other ways.

Vive l’Alberta Libre!

When will a brave politician come forward with the courage to Shut Down Line 5?

Aside. Many years ago, in Communist East Germany, Chancellor Ulbricht stated at a speech that there was no plan to build a wall in Berlin. Shortly after that speech, the communist forces encircled West Berlin with barbed wire fences and, in a few more months, completed a concrete wall. The irony is that the Western (NATO) allies had forewarning about the wall, because the East German communist government bought most of the barbed wire and materials for the Berlin wall from England and West Germany. This leads me to believe that maybe the Germany of today still has a few good communists in the administration that know how to get things done like getting an FSRU built in 6 month.


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