Uber-green Europe is ramping up coal and gas plants in an effort to keep the lights on. The enthusiasts genuinely didn’t see this one coming, apparently. As Sophie Mellor wrote in Fortune, “For the past several years, Europe has been shutting down its own gas fields domestically to reduce impact on the environment. The largest gas field in Europe, the Dutch Groningen field, is currently being decommissioned eight years earlier than initially planned, with its output reduced to a ‘minimum’ flow that is meant to be used only as a backup energy source.” Vladimir Putin, by contrast, did see it coming, acted to make it worse and has cashed in. It is tempting to call people “ideologues” when they resist seeing what appears to you to be obvious. It’s bad enough when supposedly sober media outlets like the Globe & Mail assert as established fact the hallucination that “Around the world, climate change is manifesting itself in more extreme temperatures, heavier rainfall, increased wildfires, and severe drought.” It’s even worse that when climate change policy produces a real disaster right under their noses, they brush it off and go right back to fighting purple dragons.
Mellor adds, “Running out of gas as the cost of energy hits record highs, Europe is facing a ‘power crunch’ – one that has been years in the making. As the global demand for gas soars, Europe’s uptake of intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, combined with its aggressive shutdown of coal and heavy EU carbon taxation, has caused its electricity supply to tighten…. This volatility has brought higher prices, hitting record highs across Spain, Germany, and France. Residential users, meanwhile, bear the brunt of the cost.”
Again, bear in mind that it’s not even a disaster that came from outer space with some sort of predictability. Rather, “The eye-watering bills come as both the European Union and United Kingdom push to become global leaders in decarbonizing their energy grids… The current power crunch is the product of years of policy choices, many made with the best of intentions.”
Ergo, the road to hell.
Such stupidity is bad enough. It’s even worse when, for instance, a piece in the Guardian engages in brazen denial, insisting that the energy shortage created by a government war on energy wasn’t caused by a government war on energy. Instead, it insists “The cause of our food and petrol shortages is Brexit – yet no one dares name it”. The author, Jonathan Freedland, is a regular columnist with that outlet who is predictably as shrill a climate alarmist as one could possibly find; indeed we recently quoted in our “Say What?” section a headline (which in fairness he did not write) saying “Are you in denial? Because it’s not just anti-vaxxers and climate sceptics”.
These are the very people who have been shrieking for years that fossil fuels threaten our very survival. And now that European governments have tried to force their citizens to stop using them, and have had considerable success in making them unavailable, creating an energy crisis in which the lack of fossil fuels is literally threatening people’s survival, columnists like Freedland are blaming anyone but themselves. Another Guardian column even blamed the Conservatives for… not being aggressive enough on climate policy. A true classic.
Since we want to be fair here, let us note that in that same Globe & Mail, Eric Reguly wrote “Europe’s power crisis was just a matter of time – and that time has come. Natural gas and electricity prices are setting record highs virtually every day, and businesses and households have gone from getting annoyed to being terrified as the bills land like hand grenades. The continent’s power system was an accident waiting to happen, in good part because its purported virtues – vast amounts of climate-friendly renewable energy and waning numbers of climate-unfriendly coal-fired plants – were less robust than advertised.” So it would seem.
Since we also want to have something positive to contribute, let us repeat something else we have said over and over again: If you really believe climate change is an existential crisis caused by human outputs of greenhouse gases, but understand that not having reliable energy is also a disaster, you must support the nuclear option. In fact one exogenous problem in Britain is that the undersea cable linking them to French nuclear generating capacity caught fire. But it wouldn’t have been possible if they had enough of their own instead of planning to shut down much of what they have.
You can’t build a nuclear plant overnight of course, any more than you can a wind farm or an energy crisis. But if the best time to plant a oak tree is 20 years ago, the next best is today. So support nuclear and support it now, because the climate crisis is not upon us. But the climate policy crisis we have long warned of certainly is.