One apparent casualty of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that, by sheer coincidence, was designed to bring more Russian natural gas to western Europe while bypassing Ukraine via the Baltic seabed so that… well, the rationale gets a bit vague and depends on whether you’re Vladimir Putin or some democratically elected German politician who… uh… is shutting down both coal-fired and nuclear plants at the behest of green fanatics who long ago stopped trying to hide their disloyalty to their own civilization. Revealingly, the Wikipedia article on Nord Stream begins by giving its Russian name Северный поток, which translates as “you are useful idiots”, before noting that it is owned by Gazprom, which is owned by the Russian government, which is owned by Vladimir Putin. A vital upcoming test of whether James Burnham’s “Suicide of the West” actually has the rope over the beam will be to see whether Western Europeans in particular now start investing in energy that works, from fracking to coal to nuclear plants, in order to keep their citizens from freezing in the dark or trembling when Putin growls.
The Biden administration had been intermittently opposed to Nord Stream 2. But not as fiercely and decisively as it was to Keystone XL to bring Canadian oil to the U.S. Nor as adamantly as the Trump administration was, with a now-famous video of Trump berating the Germans suddenly looking painfully prescient. And it’s no coincidence that as Putin planned to shred Ukraine, he was carefully limiting shipments of natural gas to Europe to squeeze NATO governments psychologically and economically. But when it comes to the German determination to proceed with Nord Stream 2, coincidence isn’t the word. Foolish might be. But so is dirty.
How dirty is it? Well, as Wikipedia notes, As German chancellor until 2005 “Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which now supplies Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries…. Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom’s nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG… In 2016, Schröder switched to become manager of Nord Stream 2… In 2017, Russia nominated Schröder to also serve as an independent director of the board of its biggest oil producer Rosneft. At the time, Rosneft was under Western sanctions over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. Schröder… would be paid about $350,000 annually for the part-time post.” He still is. And to think Putin considers us weak, decadent and corrupt. But it’s no good cancelling that pipeline unless you have a Plan B.
Which brings us to yet another of our “we told you so” observations, that “support for nuclear is pretty much a sanity test for climate alarmists”. And if you want to test our consistency in applying our principles, we said it in the course of praising none other than John Kerry, who passed that one whatever mess he may have made of the rest of the exam. And of course it is going to be very revealing to see what Western policymakers do on energy in the next six months or so.
It will even be interesting to see what they say. But as the Ukraine crisis has underlined, a political class that mistakes words for deeds is not to be judged on its skill at sending signals regarding its determination to send more signals. Will we actually see nuclear plants authorized and ground broken? Will we see fracking bans repealed and projects approved from Great Britain to Germany?
We don’t want to get drawn too far into the increasingly pertinent class divide between the “Virtuals,” who acquire prestige and wealth by stringing together abstractions into dazzling arrays of complex implausibility, and the “Practicals” or “Physicals” who make real objects work. But we will mention that in The Conversation, a reliable source of climate fantasy, two academics you wouldn’t want trying to change a truck tire argued that “We believe the crisis has the potential to accelerate Europe’s trend toward renewables, as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian gas... But this is not guaranteed. In the near term, there is a huge risk that the crisis in Ukraine focuses attention on energy security at the expense of decarbonisation.”
You ain’t foolin’. Because chickens are famous for returning to the roost in flocks, and as it happens in the runup to the Ukraine crisis German energy giant Siemens faced a stock market red alert because massive losses in its trendy wind power division threatened to bring down the entire firm. No matter what cleverness you get from a “Lecturer in Public Policy” and a “Professor and Director of the Policy Innovation Hub” at Griffith University in South East Queensland where “remarkable is the norm” along with “challenging convention”.
The clevers are reeling here. One piece in the Globe & Mail (author with honours diploma in journalism from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and they mock our history PhD) starts “The most effective economic weapon that the West has in its arsenal to retaliate against Vladimir Putin for his unprovoked attack on Ukraine is a boycott of Russia’s oil. It’s also the one that U.S. President Joe Biden and his allies can’t afford to use.” And that journalist’s profile includes that he “abides by The Globe and Mail Editorial Code of Conduct, which really ought to go without saying. And that code specifies that “The Globe and Mail will seek to provide reasonable accounts of competing views in any controversy so as to enable readers to make up their own minds.” But the piece nowhere mentions that Biden cancelled Keystone XL on his first day in office.
While we’re being snide, the influential and very wealthy 350.org founded by Bill McKibben, which played a major role in spiking Keystone XL, seems to be tearing itself apart over Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. Har har. But when we searched their site for “Ukraine” all we got was two-year-old stories rubbishing the place as a hotbed of CO2. So then we searched “China” and got stuff like “China’s coal declaration is a win for the climate movement”.
Even the United States imports Russian oil. And yet it turns back the Canadian stuff. You cannot make such things up. And if you could, you certainly wouldn’t want to.
Here it is worth mentioning that another good way to fail the sanity test is to decide not just to shut down nuclear plants but also then scramble to burn coal because you didn’t even have natural gas. And European countries have, including Germany. France, too, more or less shut down the nuclear industry that had seen it coast through previous energy crises. And for what? Nuclear power provided 75% of France’s electricity production but former president Francois Hollande had pledged to bring it down to 50% because… because… It’s really hard to imagine. However current President Emmanuel Macron, and again we’re not fans but credit where due, has promised to ramp it up because, well, here it’s pretty straightforward: “It is the most relevant choice from an ecological point of view and the most expedient from an economic point of view and finally the least costly from a financial point of view.” He’s also mega-keen on renewables, at least rhetorically and probably intellectually. But if they don’t pan out, well, the lights will stay on.
BTW the article cited immediately above said “Nuclear accounts for almost 75% of France’s power production”. But in the spirit of actually having some idea what we’re talking about we checked and it’s actually of its electricity production. As for the total amount of mechanical energy employed in France to save humans and mules from having to do all the work, well, there’s a lot of fossil fuel going into French cars and trucks. Not to mention fighter jets and tanks, although its on-again, off-again flagship aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is, um, nuclear powered. Not solar. Not windmill. Not peat moss. It is in fact the only operational nuclear carrier outside the U.S. Navy. Even Britain’s new HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales rely on gas turbine and diesel engines.
If you think all this military stuff is a digression, think again. National security is the first duty of governments, because if they do not protect the lives, liberties and property of citizens from foreign attack nothing else they might attempt is of any significance. And to pursue an energy policy that, whatever its other merits, catastrophically undermined national security was irresponsible to the point of insanity.
So, to end on a cheery note, the most appalling prospect looking forward would be for the Germans quietly to revive Nordstrom 2 once the Ukraine ruckus is over.