Is This another War About Fossil Fuels? No. And Yes.

February 26, 2022

Reliably backasswards as always, Fox News Flagship Quisling Tucker “Rootin for Putin” Carlson blames “The Climate People” for Europe’s vulnerability and dependence on Russian Gas. Say what you will about nuclear plants, Germany, and Europe, depend on gas for space heating, something nuclear by itself does not address – only electrification – long advocated by said climate people, can solve. (see this post for more on that)

Guardian:

Is this really another war over fossil fuels?

No. Energy resources are not the focus of this threatened conflict. Vladimir Putin has a long history of territorial ambitions in former Soviet nations, which he made explicit this week, and of attempts to exert political control over Ukraine. Putin is said by supporters to be concerned over the possibility of Nato expansion, although many analysts say this is a pretext.

So the Ukraine crisis is not a war over resources, but it has many implications for resource use. Russia is effectively weaponising its dominance over European gas supply for political ends. Reducing reliance on Russian gas is an urgent necessity for the EU to reach net zero emissions, and would also diminish Putin’s political leverage over the EU.

It is also worth noting that in the longer term, as Europe weans itself off gas and pursues net zero emissions, the value of this political weapon will wane rapidly. Russia’s industries have never recovered from the fall of communism, and its economy is now based overwhelmingly on the export of fossil fuels, with much of the rest made up of energy-dependent mineral resources, such as iron, steel, aluminium and other metals, and some agriculture.

Four in 10 roubles accruing to Russia’s federal budget pre-pandemic came from oil and gas, which made up 60% of Russian exports in 2019. Kremlin strategists are therefore keenly aware that in the longer term the global move to net zero threatens the whole basis of Russia’s economy and global influence.

Historically, much of Europe was heavily dependent on coal for power and heating. Renewable energy generation has more than doubled since 2004, and reached 22% of final energy production in 2020.

However, at the same time the share generated from nuclear power has fallen, from about a third of the EU’s electricity in 1995 to about a quarter today. After the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, Germany’s then chancellor Angela Merkel announced an “Energiewende” – an energy shift – that would see all of the country’s reactors shut down.

This has increased Germany’s need for gas, and similar moves away from coal and towards lower emissions in other countries – including the UK, which despite North Sea gas production is a net importer of gas – have heightened the dependency.

The geopolitical implications of this dependency, as well as the climate impacts, are now unignorable. Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, now with the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC, says: “It has taken the current crisis for Germany and the EU to recognise that its co-dependence on Russian gas is a geopolitical and climate nightmare from which they must finally awake. Reducing Russian gas reliance is a huge climate and moral imperative that Europe must prioritise.”

Historically, much of Europe was heavily dependent on coal for power and heating. Renewable energy generation has more than doubled since 2004, and reached 22% of final energy production in 2020.

However, at the same time the share generated from nuclear power has fallen, from about a third of the EU’s electricity in 1995 to about a quarter today. After the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, Germany’s then chancellor Angela Merkel announced an “Energiewende” – an energy shift – that would see all of the country’s reactors shut down.

This has increased Germany’s need for gas, and similar moves away from coal and towards lower emissions in other countries – including the UK, which despite North Sea gas production is a net importer of gas – have heightened the dependency.

The geopolitical implications of this dependency, as well as the climate impacts, are now unignorable. Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, now with the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC, says: “It has taken the current crisis for Germany and the EU to recognise that its co-dependence on Russian gas is a geopolitical and climate nightmare from which they must finally awake. Reducing Russian gas reliance is a huge climate and moral imperative that Europe must prioritise.”

Politico:

Behind the rude awakening on energy security lies an even more unsettling realization for many German elites: That a decades-long goal of bringing Berlin and Moscow closer together through mutually beneficial trade seems to have failed.

Inspired by former Chancellor Willy Brandt’s mantra of “Wandel durch Annäherung” (change through rapprochement) — a core pillar of his Ostpolitik toward Eastern Europe during the Cold War — generations of German politicians have advocated an approach known as “Wandel durch Handel,” meaning change through trade.

The idea that growing trade links with other nations would help to gradually embed Western democratic standards in those countries has already taken a hit when it comes to China, which has only become more and more repressive despite growing economic links. Still, leading German politicians have long held out hope that “Wandel durch Handel” might still work with Russia, and defended Nord Stream 2 as a tool to also influence Russia for the better.

“Obviously, this policy has totally failed when it comes to Russia,” said Marcel Dirsus, a non-resident fellow at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University. He argued that instead of influencing Moscow by making Russia more dependent on Germany, the policy had the opposite effect.

Bill McKibben in the Guardian:

One of the worst parts of facing today’s reality is our impotence in its face. Yes, America is imposing sanctions, and yes, that may eventually hamper Putin. But the Russian leader made his move knowing we could not actually fight him in Ukraine – and indeed knowing that his hinted willingness to use nuclear weapons will make it hard to fight him anywhere, though one supposes we will have no choice if he attacks a Nato member.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to dramatically reduce Putin’s power. One way, in particular: to get off oil and gas.

This is not a “war for oil and gas” in the sense that too many of America’s Middle East misadventures might plausibly be described. But it is a war underwritten by oil and gas, a war whose most crucial weapon may be oil and gas, a war we can’t fully engage because we remain dependent on oil and gas. If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas.

Russia has a pathetic economy – you can verify that for yourself by looking around your house and seeing how many of the things you use were made within its borders. Today, 60% of its exports are oil and gas; they supply the money that powers the country’s military machine.

And, alongside that military machine, control of oil and gas supplies is Russia’s main weapon. They have, time and again, threatened to turn off the flow of hydrocarbons to western Europe. When the Germans finally this week stopped the planned Nordstream 2 pipeline, Putin’s predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev , said, “Welcome to the new world where Europeans will soon have to pay 2,000 euros ($2,270) per thousand cubic meters!” His not very subtle notion: if the price of keeping houses warm doubles, Europe will have no choice but to fold.

Finally, even the Biden administration – which has been playing its hand wisely in the lead up to the invasion – is constrained by oil and gas. As we impose sanctions, everyone’s looking for an out: the Italians want to exempt high-end luxury goods and the Belgians diamonds, but the US has made it clear that it doesn’t want to seriously interrupt the flow of Russian oil for fear of driving up gas prices and thus weakening American resolve.

As one “senior state department official” told the Wall Street Journal this week, “doing anything that affects … or halts energy transactions would have a great impact on the United States, American citizens and our allies. So our intention here is to impose the hardest sanctions we can while trying to safeguard the American public and the rest of the world from those measures,” the official said. It’s obviously not an idle fear: as of this morning Tucker Carlson was attacking Russia hawk Lindsey Graham for supporting a conflict that will bring “higher gas prices” while he has a “generous Congressional pension”. If you’re an apologist for fascism, high gas prices are your first go-to move.

So now is the moment to remind ourselves that, in the last decade, scientists and engineers have dropped the cost of solar and windpower by an order of magnitude, to the point where it is some of the cheapest power on Earth. The best reason to deploy it immediately is to ward off the existential crisis that is climate change, and the second best is to stop the killing of nine million people annually who die from breathing in the particulates that fossil fuel combustion produces. But the third best reason – and perhaps the most plausible for rousing our leaders to action – is that it dramatically reduces the power of autocrats, dictators, and thugs.

8 Responses to “Is This another War About Fossil Fuels? No. And Yes.”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    ‘Germany, and Europe, depend on gas for space heating, something nuclear by itself does not address – only electrification’
    The waste heat from nuclear is being used now for district space heating, and so can raise the thermal efficiency of nuclear from about 37% to well over 50%. This is being done with the brand new American-designed AP1000 reactors built in China, and has been done for years in eastern Europe, as well as sometimes in Switzerland and Sweden. Conversely, the extensive coal-powered district heating systems in Denmark mean that even when the wind is blowing, they can’t turn off their combined heat and power plants. These are being converted to burn biomass instead, but that still produces much more CO2 than would nuclear.
    Even electric heat is cleaner if running on 24/7 nuclear electricity than on 40% capacity factor wind, backed by gas, and solar. Germany has 58 gigawatts of solar PV, but today it only ran for nine hours, with a noon peak output of 18 GW. Coal ran at 22 to 25 GW for 24 hours. Even at noon, German power had over 4x the CO2 emissions of the highest nuclear-powered France reached for the day. https://app.electricitymap.org/zone/DE
    John O’Neill

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “These are being converted to burn biomass instead, but that still produces much more CO2 than would nuclear.”

      That requires some explanation, because it seems wrong.

      Biomass CO2 emission is in fact nearly CO2 neutral – the carbon in wood is from CO2 recently scrubbed from the air. Neutral still means neutral.

      Meanwhile nuclear is associated with CO2 emissions in its concrete construction and deconstruction; uranium extraction, processing and transportation of nuclear fuel and wastes.

      • John Oneill Says:

        The carbon footprint of nuclear is put at 12 grams CO2 per kilowatt hour by the IPCC, versus 11 grams for wind, 45g for solar, and 230g for biomass ( in power generation.) I think that’s mostly for wood waste, whereas the Danes intend to use mainly straw and agricultural waste. For reference, coal does 820g, gas 490g.
        https://app.electricitymap.org/zone/DK-DK1
        A more recent assessment puts nuclear even lower – ‘The study finds each kilowatt hour of electricity generated over the lifetime of a nuclear plant has an emissions footprint of 4 grammes of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e/kWh). The footprint of solar comes in at 6gCO2e/kWh and wind is also 4gCO2e/kWh.’ This was partly from assuming that the original carbon debt of building a reactor is amortised over sixty years, rather than the forty assumed by the IPCC. The other major difference is that enrichment of uranium by centrifuging now uses about 2% of that needed for diffusion, while leach mining uses much less energy than open cast or underground. Wind and solar are also credited with using clean energy for their manufacture.
        https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-footprints
        John O’Neill

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          I am not saying that nuclear lifetime CO2 emissions are high – they are not. I am saying that burning biomass and attributing CO2 emissions to that appears unjustified.

          What is the rationale for attributing CO2 emissions to biomass that is a multiple higher than that of nuclear, solar, or wind?

          • John Oneill Says:

            ‘Biomass energy has the fourth-highest carbon footprint of all energy types. Per kWh produced, biomass fuel emits 230 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a life-cycle basis. It directly contributes to climate change, has various negative environmental effects, and is not as beneficial as it might seem.’
            https://impactful.ninja/the-carbon-footprint-of-biomass-energy/#:~:text=Biomass%20energy%20has%20the%20fourth,beneficial%20as%20it%20might%20seem.
            David Mackay, the British scientist who headed the Climate Commission there, estimated that to power the cars on a typical UK motorway from biomass would need a 5 km wide strip of land right along the length of it. Biofuels mandates supposedly put in for climate or energy independence reasons have led to perverse effects like the US ethanol scam, raising food costs for the poor to provide a few percent of that country’s motor fuel, or the clearing of Indonesian rainforest to make biodiesel for the European Union. Wood was in very short supply in England and in New England before the industrial revolution, when population and energy demand was much lower than today. It still is in places like Africa or the Arctic. Substitution with modern, cleaner energy allows impoverished forests to regenerate, and cuts the human footprint on the Earth.


  2. More renewables means less dependence on fossil fuels… Of course Fox tries to deny this basic fact too.

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    Wow.
    The relentless lies from the right seem to have accomplished their goal; they’ve destroyed truth—at least for right wing dupes—to the point that the saying “they’ll say anything” is literally true. Their lies come from the right, from the left, from nowhere, from everywhere at once, from projections coming from their delusions. Republicans complaining about congressional elitism and high gas prices is ludicrous. And disgusting.

    The Ukraine crisis’ interweavings with energy policy, and the changeover from state-communist Soviet Union to Russian dictatorship has left the right confused, and confusing, about instructing their followers about which autocratic rulers are admirable and which are to be hated with the passionate intensity of the sun. (It’s all about their excuse for taking power—selfishness OK, keeping down dark people and those of unworthy religion OK, equality and sharing no no no no no.)

    I’ve told dear John before, that Mark Jacobson has pointed out that the Indian Point reactor will will take less backup than the nuke did because nukes don’t follow load. John’s still lying about it to push nukes on a country that doesn’t want or need them.
    https://www.riverkeeper.org/blogs/indian-point-blogs/energy-analysis-confirms-no-new-fossil-fuels-needed-to-replace-indian-point/

    And as always when referencing the day’s cheap clean safe reliable renewable energy production, John is cherry picking—citing solar output during the winter, choosing to post about wind only when it’s at a 40 year low, and on and on. Despite the fact that I’ve told John and the other ARFs (anti-renewable fanatics) who come here, over and over and over that it’s the hocketed mix of cheap clean safe reliable renewable energy that matters, they continue to use the too-common tactic of pretending each source of cheap clean safe reliable renewable energy is separate from all the others and acting alone. It’s like evaluating the performance of a bicycle with no wheels or pedals. It’s the only way ARFism works—by lying about both nukes and RE.

    And s/he’s “neglecting” to mention that overwhelmingly it’s economically and politically disadvantaged people who are forced to live around fossil and fissile fueled generators. But it’s OK! If you’re forced to, at least you get some heat out of it, even without the meltdown.
    Maybe the gift shops could sell little pieces of corium lava for heat, too.

    We’ve heard all the lies about Germany. Just like almost every other country in the world, it’s been unwilling to build wind and solar power fast enough. With the departure of its conservative govt. Germany recently committed to doubling its steady reduction of emissions, while democratizing its energy. Despite still fighting coal barons and unions it’s far ahead of every other one of the biggest economies. Ahead in grid reliability, too—ahead of France, with the highest % of nukes; way ahead of the US, with the most nukes; ahead of most countries. Grid reliability keeps getting better as Germany (47% RE), Denmark (69% RE, 47% wind), Texas, and other places add RE.

    Know what else has lower emissions than burning things? (Hint: not false dichotomies.) Cheap clean safe reliable renewable energy sources like on and offshore wind, solar PV and CSP, clothesline paradox solar, hydro, micro-hydro, run-of-river hydro, geothermal, ocean energies like tidal and others. And it turns out, we don’t have to risk nuclear destruction to get the energy civilization needs!

    It seems pretty obvious that to invite the kind of disaster that may unfold in Ukraine isn’t useful. Especially when it’s so completely unnecessary because we have almost infinitely safer technology to provide what we need.

    France’s nukes have been chugging along at about 65% capacity factor recently, trying hard just to keep up with new offshore wind power. And Flamanville is a perfect example of those that are years behind schedule and gazillions over budget, planned and run by organizations riven with corruption, ulterior motives, and incompetence. That would be really bad in a shoe factory; with a massively deadly technology like nuclear power it’s utterly insane and absolutely unacceptable.

    Keeping nukes running was unacceptable to the German people after Fukushima, an understandable response to a dangerous technology in the face of a disaster that, amazingly, is still happening a decade later. Their problem is not missing dangerous nukes now, it’s having intransigent fossil fuel moguls and reactionary insane people preventing a rapid enough switch to clean safe renewable energy to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/25/vladimir-putin-ukraine-attack-antisemitism-denazify?utm_term=621a2b5b1dfbd4ddf58adc3703f80c8a&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUS&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUS_email


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