First word

CLIMATE change skeptics like myself are all smiles these days. The climate debate has taken a sudden and momentous turn.

For two decades, environmentalists and climate alarmists have smugly hectored and terrified the world with talk of climate catastrophe as a result of man-made global warming or climate change. They have demonized carbon dioxide as a threat to the planet and prescribed the abandonment of fossil fuels by the world economy.

They have kept everyone enthralled and terrified by the threat of doomsday at the end of the century.

Now, it appears the shoe is on the other foot. The circumstances have changed, and the roles have been reversed.

Today, it is the turn of the climate alarmists and environmentalists to be terrified by the prospect of becoming unnecessary in world affairs.

The principal cause of this dramatic turn of events is the global energy crunch which started first in Europe, and now engulfs the whole world.

This has happened while the world was living through the coronavirus pandemic and everyone was scrambling to survive. Consequently, most people hardly noticed what was happening under the surface.

Now, it appears that the edifice of the climate change movement, as promoted by the United Nations, may be near collapse. The decarbonization program and the green energy transition, featuring renewable sources of energy, may be derailed. The global climate summit, COP 26, slated in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31 to November 12, could be postponed or canceled because of the energy crisis.

To help our policymakers and readers comprehend the situation, I want to feature today the expert reports and analysis by several media organizations of the energy crisis.

First, the article "Global energy crunch spurs inflation and scares green lobby" by Liz Peek in The Hill website, which was published on Oct. 7, 2021.

Second, an article by Helen Raleigh in Newsweek, "The worldwide energy crunch is a dire warning for the United States," published on Oct. 5, 2021.

Why are energy prices soaring?

Liz Peek's article in The Hill makes some important points about the energy crisis. Here are key excerpts from her article:

"Environmentalists are terrified. The green lobby is very, very concerned that the energy shortage sweeping the globe might cause public officials to think twice before chucking fossil fuels overboard.

"Natural gas prices today in Europe are up about 600 percent and roughly equivalent to $200 per barrel oil. The cost of electricity and natural gas and oil have risen so fast that France's leaders have countered with subsidies to the poor and Italy and Spain's governments are slapping price controls on energy, which will almost certainly make matters worse.

"A doubling of electricity prices, such as recorded recently in the United Kingdom (UK), tends to dull climate anxieties.

"Energy shortages are especially vexing to environmental warriors just now since the COP26 Climate Conference starts on Halloween in Glasgow. They hope to see more governments commit to impossible emissions reductions, even if it means beggaring their voters.

"Why are energy prices soaring? First, the wind inconveniently stopped blowing in the North Sea late this summer. The UK derives about one quarter of its power from wind turbines and recently saw those facilities operate at less than 5 percent of capacity.

"That happens sometimes; this is not a first. Wind and solar power are by definition intermittent sources of energy and cannot be relied on today for steady power.

"Because the wind was disappointing, Europe has had to increase its consumption of coal and natural gas, 90 percent of which is imported, to fill in the gaps. Storage of fuels was low coming out of last year's chilly winter, which in this era of global warming was yet another unexpected development. Consequently, as nations raced to refill storage and bought gas to tide them through the becalmed fall, prices bounded higher.

"With natural gas now traded globally as LNG (liquified natural gas) exports have increased dramatically in recent years, energy markets are increasingly intertwined.

"Meanwhile, President Biden has done his bit to boost energy prices by displaying hostility to the Gulf Arab nations, and in particular to OPEC leader Saudi Arabia.

"Twice so far this year, including just days ago, OPEC has resisted calls to increase output to stem climbing prices. Twice the oil-producing group has continued to steadily ratchet up production, instead of opening the taps. That's on Saudi Arabia.

"Despite the growth in US oil output in recent years, the Saudis still run the show.

"Biden has worked to undermine US oil and gas producers by limiting access to new acreage on federal lands and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. Officials in states such as New York have also denied permits for new natural gas pipelines, in one of the most idiotic policy decisions in history. The United States, thanks to technology breakthroughs, has an almost unlimited supply of normally inexpensive natural gas, which most energy analysts consider the best "transition" fuel as the world increases its dependence on renewables. To block access to this comparatively clean fuel is absurd.

"But no more absurd than the French overreacting to Japan's Fukushima accident by shutting down its emissions-free nuclear power plants, which generated 75 percent of the nation's electricity. Or Germany banning most fracking and choosing instead to rely heavily on Russian gas imports.

"The Western world's response to climate change has been poorly designed and aimed at pleasing activists instead of intelligently solving the problem."

Double whammy

Helen Raleigh wrote:

"Both Europe and China are experiencing energy crises at the moment.

"The main culprit of Europe's energy supply shortage is the European Union's unrealistic climate policy. The Paris Agreement sets a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To meet this goal, Britain and the EU vowed to cut back carbon emissions drastically and become carbon neutral by 2050. Britain and the EU have subsidized renewable energy such as solar and wind while closing hundreds of coal plants. Britain has only two coal plants remaining. Greece plans to shut down coal-fired power plants by 2025, and Finland said it would outright ban coal use by 2030. Germany is on its way to closing all 84 of its coal-fired plants by 2038.

"While aggressively closing coal plants, a number of European countries have also banned fracking and some refuse to invest in nuclear energy. These policies have put Britain and the EU at the mercy of renewable energy and natural gas (mostly imported from Russia).

"The double whammy of natural gas shortages and reduced wind power hit the United Kingdom especially hard. Natural gas provides more than a third of the nation's electricity and the heating needs for 85 percent of homes. ...

"The widespread energy shortage and rising energy prices have already slowed down Europe's economic recovery. Facing higher energy bills, businesses and consumers are cutting back their spending. Suppose this coming winter is as cold as last winter. European governments may have to ask some businesses to cease operations to conserve energy for consumers to stay warm — an approach communist China is currently taking to address its own energy crisis.

"China is experiencing a severe shortage of electricity at the moment. Unlike Europe, China has no lack of coal-fired plants. Since signing up for the Paris climate accord, it has only built more new coal plants domestically and internationally. Last week, President Xi Jinping finally announced that the country would stop building new coal plants abroad but didn't commit to doing the same domestically. China's economy remains heavily reliant on coal.

"The main culprit of China's current energy crisis is its central planning price model, in which the government regulates and sets electricity prices for end-users. China is the world's largest coal producer as well as the world's largest coal importer.

"The energy crisis in Europe has shown that an energy policy aiming to phase out fossil fuels overnight and rely on renewable energy sources alone is unrealistic and dangerous."

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