It’s a Mad Mad World of Energy

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).

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The Cobra Effect

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.

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Nuclear Power: Climate Solution or Hype

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:

  1. The International Energy Agency (IEA) came out with its report on the state of the climate, and it was brutal toward fossil fuels. It laid out the reality of the current climate crisis and pointed to one clear action required to prevent catastrophic global warming: “The world has a choice – stop developing new oil, gas and coal fields today or face a dangerous rise in global temperatures.” It is important to point out that the report didn’t call for the immediate elimination of fossil fuels as energy sources. The IEA understands the need for some transition period to a fossil-free future. But the transition needs to be speedy, and the IEA feels that the best way to do this is to stop all new developments, live off the current reserves, and use that time to develop the technologies, change behavior and make the transition.
  2. President Joe Biden issued his sweeping climate goal to cut US emissions in half by 2030 ahead of convening an historic summit with 40 world leaders to demonstrate American leadership in the quest to elimination of fossil fuels by 2050.
  3. ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron were rebuked by shareholders and the courts for not aligning their strategies with the threat of climate change. 
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Bitcoins are Carbon Pigs

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: For several years, Bitcoins and similar digital currencies have been the rage, heralded as a true medium of exchange and value that is independent of government manipulation, as is seen with all fiat currencies. However, Bitcoins in particular have also generated rage amongst environmentalists because the energy consumption and carbon emissions required to support Bitcoins approach the total annual consumption of states like New York or exceed the total energy consumption of nation states like the Netherlands or Argentina.

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Canada plans to invade the US (again)

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.

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The Simple Answer: Oil Demand is Declining and Natural Gas Demand is Increasing

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.

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New Digital Tech Solutions Equal More Old Energy Tech

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.

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