As we move toward the Christmas break, which in our case means no “Wednesday Wakeup” Newsletter on Dec. 28 or Jan. 4, we want to give considerable thought to the very harsh conditions under which so many Ukrainians will be trying to celebrate. And to underline that in a singularly malevolent spasm of destruction, partly designed to create strategic weakness and partly just nihilistic, Russian forces under Vladimir Putin are deliberately destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. In some sense the same thing is happening in the West, far more slowly, using the rule of law and against a background of far greater resilience and no foreign invasion. Thus for instance “Germany’s Largest State Declares Emergency Amid Energy Crisis”. So the lesson, beyond the need to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and brutalized, is that reliable affordable energy is absolutely vital to the flourishing of any society and those whose sense of privilege has caused them to lose sight of that primal reality should not be granted authority.
The delicacy of the discussion among climate alarmists who are finally getting what they wanted and don’t seem to like it very much is remarkable. For instance Reuters “Sustainable Switch” for Dec. 1, perkily branded “Sponsored by Shell” (but for which no link is available), says:
“Winter has arrived in Europe and people all over the continent are struggling to keep up with soaring inflation and high bills. Shutting early, switching off the lights and lowering temperatures are among the measures being taken by Europe’s retailers and shopping malls to try and cut energy use and contain a crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Well, no. There wouldn’t be an energy crisis resulting from one foreign country invading another one if “Europe” was energy self-sufficient or even had reasonable alternative suppliers other than the country that did the invading.
It is entirely a self-inflicted geopolitical wound. And a serious one; as Reuters also concedes, “Over in Germany, citizens are looking to cut back on non-essentials amid a cost of living crisis fuelled by rising energy prices.”
Germany. The economic “powerhouse” of Europe, somehow still the world’s fourth-largest economy despite having deliberately sabotaged its own power industry.
When you think of basic needs, the phrase “food, clothing and shelter” naturally springs to mind. And it was clearly a huge leap forward in human well-being when we tamed fire and could cook food. But modern agriculture is energy-intensive in ways that even chasing a mammoth was not, including the production and application of fertilizer that many governments including that of Canada have somehow concluded is a mortal threat to our survival not a key element of it. And shelter is a bleak affair unless, in a cold climate, it can be heated.
Medieval castles may look like horrible, chilly damp stone blocks. But in fact they were hung with brightly coloured insulating tapestries and large fires brought warmth especially due to one of the Middle Ages’ many important inventions, the chimney. When people are cold, they work hard and think hard about how to get warmth.
Thinking is of course hard work. And thus it turns out that in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, both economically and demographically, the emergency measure is to lift the debt ceiling so they can borrow even more money to subsidize people’s energy bills. It is not, repeat not, to develop more sources of energy.
This Christmas, our readers and viewers will for the most part, we hope, live in places where ill-considered climate policy based on bad science has not yet become a grave threat to health and even survival. But we realize that even in North America, and certainly in much of Europe, skyrocketing energy prices and lack of supply that have arisen through deliberate policy choices, from dependence on Russian natural gas to bans on fracking to shutting down nuclear reactors to taxes on “carbon pollution”, are going to cause real misery and hardship especially if the winter, as seems to be happening, comes early and hits hard.
From another continent where poverty was already a daily miserable companion, Vijay Jayaraj notes the growing incidence of cold weather and then underlines the real human consequences of lacking energy and thus of bad energy policy:
“A small percentage of India’s 1.3 billion population has access to electrical heaters. However, a majority must burn a variety of fuels for fire to stay warm, making many people susceptible to surprise cold events.”
And he warns against “complacency” because:
“Even in a developed nation such as Germany, climate complacency has led to unpreparedness for winter energy needs and government officials are now asking citizens to heat just one room in their homes! It is the cold that kills.”
Yes, kills. Not as quickly as Russian missiles that hit your house but, as Putin and his henchthugs know all too well when they aim their missiles at power plants, very certainly.
So if you are one of the fortunate ones, please spare a thought and a donation for those in need, in your own community and country, in other Western nations, and in Ukraine. And then ask yourself how foolish it would be to make this problem worse in so many dimensions because of a phantom threat from plant food.