Today’s Key Takeaways: Alaska’s Graphite One advances largest known and highest-grade graphite deposit in U.S. Bloomberg admits Renewable Mania Caused Energy Shortages. Center for Biological Diversity continues to threaten Alaska’s Economy. OPEC approves 400,000 barrel-a-day increase scheduled for February. For the first time ever – U.S. was world’s biggest exporter of LNG last month.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
An environmental group plans to sue over the impact to polar bears from a new Alaska oil project
Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today, January 3, 2022
An environmental group is seeking to stop exploration work at an oil project on Alaska’s North Slope that its developer touts as holding 1.6 billion barrels of reserves.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Dec. 22 filed a notice of intent to sue over the Biden administration’s alleged failures to protect polar bears at the Peregrine prospect being developed by Australia’s 88 Energy.
The Bureau of Land Management, the agency overseeing Peregrine activities, should not allow future work at the prospect until there is formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act to analyze impacts to polar bears, the group said: “Failure to do so would constitute a gross dereliction of the agency’s legal obligations and deprive polar bears of vitally important protections.”
Polar bears, listed as threatened, are imperiled by loss of sea ice and other effects of rapid climate change in the Arctic. New exploration at Peregrine would exacerbate those problems, said the group’s filing. “Ongoing and new oil and gas activities not only cause more of the greenhouse gas emissions already harming polar bears, but threaten the bears through, inter alia, oil spills, noise pollution, and physical obstructions,” the center wrote.
The BLM declined to comment on the Center for Biological Diversity’s planned lawsuit.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a 60-day notice of intent is required before lawsuits may be filed.
Peregrine is located along the west bank of the Colville River in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It is about 40 miles south of a better-known and more-explored prospect, ConocoPhillips’ Willow project — itself the subject of litigation that has stalled on-site work.
Australia-based 88 Energy, through its subsidiary Emerald House, drilled one well at Peregrine last winter called Merlin-1 and has plans to drill a second well there this winter, called Merlin-2. The Merlin-2 well is targeting 652 million barrels of oil, 88 Energy said in a recent investor presentation.
The BLM gave its approval to Merlin-2 drilling program on Dec. 21, the day before the Center for Biological Diversity released its notice of intent to sue.
The winter program planned by Emerald House, according to the BLM record of decision, includes the construction of about 90 miles of seasonal snow road, construction of six ice pads and the operation of two temporary camps, each to house 60 workers.
Like Willow, Peregrine lies along the Nanushuk formation, a geologic feature long recognized on the North Slope but considered, until recent advancements in technology, too tightly trapped in rock to be economically developed. The Nanushuk and related Torok formations hold an estimated 8.7 billion barrels of oil, according to a 2017 resource assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Work at Willow has been halted by a court ruling that found the Trump administration’s pre-approval environmental reviews to be deficient. Among the problems with the Trump administration approvals, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said in her August ruling, was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to specify the polar bear protections that would be in place at the project.
Although 88 Energy is not yet a North Slope oil producer, it has several exploration projects underway in frontier areas of the North Slope. An 88 Energy subsidiary, Regenerate Alaska, was awarded one Arctic National Wildlife Refuge tract through the lease sale held by the outgoing Trump administration a year ago.
OPEC+ Agrees to Revive More Output
G.Smith, S.E. Wardany, B. Bartenstein, D. Khrennikova, Bloomberg/Rigzone, January 4, 2022
OPEC and its allies agreed to revive more halted production as the outlook for global oil markets improved, with demand largely withstanding the new coronavirus variant.
The 23-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Russia approved the 400,000 barrel-a-day increase scheduled for February at a meeting on Tuesday, according to a statement. The group is sticking to its plan to gradually restore output halted during the pandemic after its analysts predicted a smaller surplus this quarter than previously expected.
Global fuel consumption continues to recover from 2020’s collapse. There’s rising traffic and factory activity across key Asian consuming countries and dwindling crude inventories in the U.S., buoying oil prices to nearly $80 a barrel in London.
OPEC+ has already restarted about two-thirds of the production they halted in the early stages of the pandemic. They are seeking to drip-feed the remainder at a pace that will satisfy the recovery in fuel consumption — and stave off any inflationary price spike — without sending the market into a new slump.
There are questions about whether OPEC+ will actually deliver the full monthly increment, given the recent struggles of some members such as Angola and Nigeria to hit their production targets.
Just 130,000 barrels a day of additional OPEC+ crude are likely to hit the market in January, followed by 250,000 barrels a day in February, according to Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst and co-founder at Energy Aspects Ltd.
“Even if that headline number is 400,000, what’s coming to the market is half of that, maybe even less,” Sen said in an interview with Bloomberg TV before the OPEC+ meeting.
While the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners still expect a supply surplus to emerge this month, it appears to be smaller than previously thought. The increasing price premium of near-term Brent crude futures over later-dated contracts suggest the market remains tight.
Production will exceed demand worldwide by 1.4 million barrels a day in the first three months of the year, the group’s Joint Technical Committee concluded on Monday, compared with 1.9 million in its previous assessment.
The cartel isn’t concerned about adding barrels at a time of surplus because fuel inventories are currently at low levels and typically replenish during the seasonal demand lull, according to a delegate. Stockpiles in developed nations were 85 million barrels below their average from 2015 to 2019 as of November, according to the JTC.
At a separate and very brief online meeting on Monday, OPEC ministers appointed veteran Kuwaiti oil executive Haitham Al-Ghais as its new top diplomat, to assume the post in August after the term of its current Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo expires.
Proceeding with the next monthly increase isn’t without risks for the producers’ alliance.
Air travel saw significant disruption in the U.S. last week, with more than 1,300 flights canceled on Friday and 1,000 scrubbed for Saturday as carriers struggled with staff shortages related to coronavirus infections.
China, Asia’s biggest oil user, has shown signs of weakening fuel demand because of its relentless zero-Covid approach and tough line on pollution, according to road-congestion data from local providers like Baidu Inc. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expects the country to maintain border restrictions for the rest of this year as it prepares to host the Beijing Winter Olympics and a series of political events.
And while OPEC’s analysts see a tighter first-quarter, a chunk of the surplus they previously anticipated has been deferred to later in the year. The group has said several times that it has the option of pausing or even reversing its scheduled supply increases if needed.
The group will hold its next meeting on Feb. 2.
U.S. LNG Exports Top Rivals for First Time on Shale Revolution
Stephen Stapczynski, BNN Bloomberg News, January 4, 2022
The U.S. was the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas last month for the first time ever, as projects ramped up production and deliveries surged to energy-starved Europe.
Output from American facilities edged above Qatar in December due largely to a jump in exports from the Sabine Pass and Freeport facilities, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Cheniere Energy Inc. said last month that it achieved its first cargo from a new production unit at its Sabine Pass plant.
A shale gas revolution, coupled with billions of dollars of investments in liquefaction facilities, transformed the U.S. from a net LNG importer to a top exporter in less than a decade. U.S. natural gas production has surged by roughly 70% from 2010 after a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing unlocked supplies from shale formations across the country.
The first American LNG cargo produced from shale gas was shipped in 2016, and the nation is expected to have the world’s largest export capacity by the end of 2022 after new units start up, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The U.S.’s position as top LNG shipper may be short-lived, however. Exports were just a hair above those from Qatar and Australia, and any production issues could affect the rankings. Looking further out, Qatar is planning a gargantuan LNG export project that will come online in the late 2020s, which could cement the middle eastern nation as the top supplier of the fuel.
In the meantime, the jump in U.S. LNG exports will help ease a global supply crunch. Europe is facing a winter energy crisis as utilities grapple with seasonally low natural gas inventories. Overseas buyers purchased 13% of U.S. gas production in December, a seven-fold increase from five years earlier when most of the infrastructure required to ship the fuel out of the country didn’t yet exist.
Graphite One builds momentum into 2022
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, December 30, 2021
Graphite One Inc. enters 2022 with growing momentum as the company rapidly advances the largest known and highest-grade graphite deposit in the United States toward development as the transition to electric mobility and renewable energy is powering new demand for the advanced graphite materials it plans to produce.
“Despite the challenges of COVID on the business climate and all aspects of operations, Graphite One raised more than C$30 million in capital, completed a successful drill program to confirm the company’s projections of a long mine life based on drilling just 20% of the projected trend of the graphite mineralization, and continued to progress R&D efforts on multiple advanced graphite materials that will serve essential renewable energy and technology sectors,” said Graphite One Inc. CEO Anthony Huston. “Additionally, the surge in graphite demand in the EV and energy storage sectors, coupled with new U.S. government strategic focus on critical mineral development in the comprehensive infrastructure package, plus concern over materials supply chain disruptions is a strong signal that momentum is shifting in a way that perfectly aligns with Graphite One’s objectives of being an integrated supply chain solution for advanced graphite materials.”
A first look at the company’s integrated graphite supply chain solution was outlined in a 2017 preliminary economic assessment for a mine at Graphite Creek that would produce roughly 60,000 metric tons of 95% graphite concentrate per year and a separate processing facility to refine these annual concentrates into 41,850 metric tons of the coated spherical graphite used in the lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles and storing renewable energy, plus 13,500 metric tons of purified graphite powders annually.
The company has since upgraded and expanded the resource.
According to a 2019 calculation, Graphite Creek hosts 10.95 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 7.8% (850,534 metric tons) graphitic carbon, plus 91.89 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 8% (7.34 million metric tons) graphitic carbon.
During 2021, the company carried out a 2,052-meter drill program focused on further expanding and upgrading this resource, as well as gathering data for feasibility level studies for the Graphite One mine and processing facility.
With exploration to date outlining only 20% of the projected trend of graphite mineralization, the mine to be outlined in the coming prefeasibility and feasibility study only represents a portion of Graphite Creek’s potential to offer a secure supply of domestic graphite for decades to come.
“Given the demand growth every end-user mentions to me, and their concerns about surety of supply, we’re putting a priority on demonstrating that Graphite Creek is a robust, low-risk source for graphite far into the 21st century,” said Huston.
Graphite One plans to initiate a prefeasibility study in the first quarter of 2022, which will include an upgraded resource based on the 2021 drilling.
The company moves the project closer to advanced design and potentially permitting at a time when auto and battery makers are requiring massive new supplies of graphite for the lithium-ion batteries needed for the rapid transition to electric vehicles.
The anodes in lithium-ion batteries that power most EVs are packed full of graphite that has been rolled into potato-shaped spheres and coated in a hard carbon shell that is thermally treated. The spherical shape allows the graphite to be more efficiently packed into battery cells, while the coating extends the graphite’s lifetime capacity.
Graphite One’s technology development partner, Illinois-based American Energy Technologies Co., is working to develop battery anode-grade materials from a Graphite Creek concentrate sample.
Going into 2021, China supplied 65% of the world’s mined graphite and produced 100% of the coated spherical graphite being used by global auto and battery makers.
According to global lithium-ion battery experts at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a battery megafactory capable of producing 30 gigawatt-hours of annual capacity, roughly the size of Tesla’s Gigafactory Nevada, requires about 33,000 metric tons of graphite anode material per year.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently said it expects 13 new battery megafactories to come online in the next five years.
With similar battery factories going up around the globe, the World Bank projects that annual graphite demand will increase by 490% by 2050.
“As a result, global graphite shortfalls initially projected for 2024 or 2025 are now predicted to begin as early as 2022,” Huston said.
American automakers are speaking out about the need to develop North American supplies of the materials they need to transition to EV manufacturing.
“We have to bring battery production here, but the supply chain has to go all the way to the mines,” Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley said during an interview with Detroit News. “That’s where the real cost is, and people in the U.S. don’t want mining in their neighborhoods. So, are we going to import lithium and pull cobalt from nation-states that have child labor and all sorts of corruption, or are we going to get serious about mining?”
“We have to solve these things, and we don’t have much time,” he added.
In parallel with developing a mine-to-battery anode supply chain that begins at Graphite Creek, the company is looking at several other advanced materials that can be produced from its Alaska project.
These products include:
• Graphite foam fire suppressant – Tests carried out in December by a team of firefighting professionals at NAVAIR’s Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in California showed that a foam formulation containing Graphite Creek material can extinguish Class B fires in accordance with military standards.
• Graphite One synthetic diamonds – Purified Graphite Creek material successfully produced synthetic diamonds suitable for use in cutting tool applications, including hard surface coatings in drill bits, cutting, and grinding discs, tips of metalworking tooling, and other instruments designed for increased abrasion wear.
• Semiconductor grade diamonds –Graphite One material was also used to synthesize gemstone-quality blue diamonds doped with boron and nitrogen, which have increased hardness and engineered semiconductor properties. In a subsequent study, this blue diamond was sliced with a laser and polished. Graphite One is currently working with academia and government partners to test the properties of Graphite Creek derived synthetic diamonds in mechanical, semiconductor, thermal management, and sensor applications.
• Graphite One graphene material – Graphite One has also submitted Graphite Creek samples to Yale and Emory Universities for evaluation as a precursor to make graphene for advanced water purification technologies.
“Our advanced graphite material work is driven by Graphite One’s commitment to serve the broad range of tech material applications that depend on graphite engineered to exacting specifications,” said Huston. “Battery-grade anode material for EVs and lithium-ion batteries will be the core of our commercial value, but we know that there is even more graphite can do to meet urgent demand in sectors ranging from environmentally-safe fire suppression to transformational technologies in the semiconductor sector and the new world of graphene. Each one of these product lines underscores the value of Graphite One’s integrated supply chain solution – as well as our belief in the mission of our company to provide the tech materials that drive global ingenuity.”
Courts may overhaul energy law in 2022. Here’s how
Niina H. Farah, E & E News, January 3, 2022
After a year of high-profile energy project cancellations, federal courts in 2022 are expected to speak on the role of climate in oil, gas, and power rules.
In February, the nation’s highest bench will consider the scope of EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. In the lower courts, judges will consider whether the Interior Department can suspend new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and how the federal government can incorporate emissions cost estimates into regulatory decisionmaking.
Some of the cases will be heard by conservative judges who may be interested in blocking the Biden administration from achieving its ambitious climate goal of slashing emissions by about 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
“I think that there’s some concern within the advocacy community about the makeup of the courts and how those bedrock principles of administrative law stand up in the face of judges … who are fundamentally skeptical of the administrative state,” said Michael Burger, the executive director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.
This year’s court rulings could also provide answers to long-percolating questions about how federal judges will address regulatory uncertainty as rules change from one administration to the next.
“These are some of the most fundamental, quasi-constitutional issues of modern administration,” said Adam White, co-executive director of George Mason University’s C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State. “Ultimately, I think that’s what these cases might well be remembered for after they’re decided.”
Legal experts said the Biden administration is likely drafting proposed environmental rules that can endure review by a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority.
“The Biden administration is trying to take a very measured, legally sound and thoughtful approach for all regulations,” said Carrie Jenks, executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental & Energy Law Program. “The goal is to enable industry to make the long-term investments that are needed to address climate change and ensure these regulations stick.”
Environmental advocates, Indigenous groups and property owners are also expected to gain momentum in 2022 in their opposition of fossil fuel infrastructure.
In 2021, developers canceled long-embattled projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the Jordan Cove natural gas export facility. The PennEast natural gas pipeline was suspended even after the project notched a Supreme Court win this year (Greenwire, Sept. 27, 2021).
Here are the key energy cases to watch in 2022:
EPA climate authority
On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a high-stakes dispute over EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.
The case, West Virginia v. EPA, challenges a ruling issued at the start of the Biden administration by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that upheld EPA’s ability to broadly interpret the federal law. The decision also cleared the way for the agency to recommend states employ a “best system of emission reduction” that could include shifting to more renewable energy generation or using emissions trading.
Coal companies and Republican-led states have asked the Supreme Court to find that EPA cannot create a similar systemwide approach, limiting the Biden administration’s ability to cut greenhouse gases from an industry whose emissions are exceeded only by the transportation sector (Climatewire, Dec. 14, 2021).
While EPA and its supporters have said Supreme Court review of the matter is premature, White of George Mason University said the case is well-timed.
A broad Supreme Court ruling early in the Biden administration would give EPA a better understanding of what the “rules of the road” will be, he said. The agency has said it plans to release a proposed carbon rule by summer 2022, which is when the Supreme Court could issue its decision.
“So much of the Biden administration’s agenda for climate regulation presumes that it has these powers under the Clean Air Act,” said White.
A court ruling finding EPA’s power doesn’t go as far as Biden’s team wants it to “would be a staggering loss,” White said.
“The administration has been counting on this,” he said, “and they’re about to find out whether they’re right or wrong.”
The case could have impact far beyond EPA if the Supreme Court delves into whether the carbon rule violates the major questions doctrine, which says that courts should not defer to agency actions on issues of vast political or economic significance.
But the court is in the highly unusual position of reviewing a regulation that does not yet exist, said Jenks of Harvard.
“Normally, you have a court evaluate a regulation and a record,” she said. “For a new rule, there will be a lot of factors for EPA to evaluate.”
She later added: “It’s hard to know what this court will decide.”
Social cost of carbon
The federal courts are expected to deliver a ruling in 2022 on the Biden administration’s updated social cost of carbon.
In 2021, Republican-led states filed two lawsuits challenging Biden’s interim metric, which put a $51 value on the emissions of 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide and will help the administration justify more stringent climate regulations. The White House is expected to issue a final value soon.
The Trump administration had slashed the figure to as low as $1 per metric ton.
A federal judge said in August that a lawsuit led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) against Biden’s interim metric was premature, adding that red states still had the option to challenge future rules that are based on the new social cost of carbon. That case is now before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a separate but similar case led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, a judge appeared more sympathetic to the challenge (Climatewire, Dec. 8, 2021).
Burger of the Sabin Center said the cases foreshadow arguments that conservative interests could make to overturn future rules.
“There is some open question about whether in certain circuits there would be receptivity to the invocation of the major question doctrine or some other basis for attacking it,” he said.
Although the metric is used in regulatory analysis, it does not determine agency decisionmaking, said James Coleman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University.
A court ruling on the social cost of carbon, he said, would not be a “substantive constraint” on agency action.
How the courts address federal discretion to stop offering oil and gas lease sales is another issue to watch in 2022.
The question is still before federal judges, even as the Biden administration moves ahead with a record 80-million-acre lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and is planning for first-quarter onshore lease sales.
Challenges to Interior’s approach “are defining the requirements and discretion that the federal government is under, relative to leasing oil and gas — both onshore and offshore,” said Kyle Tisdel, climate, and energy program director at the Western Environmental Law Center, which is pushing the Biden team to halt new leasing.
“Our position is that the law on those issues is fairly well-settled, and the agency has broad discretion,” he said. “But, clearly, industry and some states are arguing otherwise.”
In one of his first moves as president, Biden issued an executive order that temporarily blocked all new federal oil and gas leasing as the government studied the climate impact of its program on federal lands and waters. That analysis was released last month.
The pause sparked a flurry of lawsuits from red states and industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the Western Energy Alliance.
One of those cases, filed by Landry of Louisiana, resulted in a nationwide injunction blocking Biden’s leasing pause. That case is now before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Energywire, Nov. 18, 2021).
After the court ruling, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proceeded to offer the nation’s largest oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico last month, prompting a new lawsuit from environmental groups (Greenwire, Sept. 1, 2021).
Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said it is important for the courts to “ensure legal precedent keeps the Biden administration in check.”
She wrote in an email: “This is another administration, like the Obama/Biden Administration before it, that intends to play loose with executive orders and other non-legal declarations that the courts need to rein in.”
Other cases to watch
In 2022, courts are also expected to hand down decisions in several thorny pipeline battles.
Developers of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and Spire STL natural gas project have both recently submitted pleas for help from the Supreme Court.
Energy Transfer Partners LP has asked the justices to find that the D.C. Circuit unlawfully established a new test when it tossed out a key permit for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (Energywire, Dec. 20, 2021).
The company said the Supreme Court should overturn the decision, which wiped out an Army Corps of Engineers permit allowing the Dakota Access pipeline to cross beneath a reservoir in the Dakotas — but stopped short of ordering the pipeline to halt operations, as a lower court had required.
Meanwhile, Spire Inc. has asked the justices to find that the D.C. Circuit improperly tossed out the pipeline’s operating certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
So far, FERC has continued to authorize the project to stay in service (Energywire, Dec. 6, 2021).
The Supreme Court takes up just 1 percent of petitions that come its way.
In the lower courts, legal experts are watching to see how judges will handle an unusual lawsuit that pits the rights of wild rice against an oil pipeline replacement project in Minnesota.
The White Earth Band of Ojibwe argues that Minnesota officials violated the rights of wild rice, or manoomin, by granting a key water permit for Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement effort.
While the band filed its challenge in tribal court, state officials moved the case to the federal bench. The lawsuit is now before the 8th Circuit, which appears poised to derail White Earth’s challenge (Energywire, Dec. 17, 2021).
But if the band is successful, legal experts say, the case has the potential to dramatically change the way tribal law is applied
Finally, Bloomberg Admits Renewables Mania Caused Energy Shortages
Michael Shellenberger, Environmental Progress, January 4, 2022
Between 2017 and 2021, Environmental Progress and I researched and published dozens of articles, testified before Congress, and authored a book, Apocalypse Never, arguing that weather-dependent renewables were making electricity increasingly unreliable and expensive, and making the United States, Europe, and Asia, dangerously dependent on natural gas. In response, there was an organized and somewhat successful effort by progressive climate-renewables activists to cut off our funding, censor us on Facebook, and prevent me from testifying before Congress.
But now, one of the biggest boosters of natural gas and renewables, media giant Bloomberg, whose owner, Michael Bloomberg, is directly invested in natural gas and renewables, has published an article conceding and substantiating almost every single point we have made over the years. “Europe Sleepwalked Into an Energy Crisis That Could Last Years,” screams the headline. The article concludes that the crisis was “years in the making” because Europe is “shutting down coal-fired electricity plants and increasing its reliance on renewables.”
Bloomberg still pulls its punches and misdescribes the situation in some ways. The article, like many other Bloomberg articles, mislabels the deployment of renewables as an “energy transition” similar to past transitions from wood to coal and coal to natural gas, failing to acknowledge that the poor physics of energy-dilute renewables make that impossible. And it suggests that Europe’s energy crisis is the result of ignorance. “The energy crisis hit the bloc,” notes a renewable energy PR person, “when security of supply was not on the menu of EU policymakers,” ignoring the reality that I and others warned EU policymakers of this very crisis.
But, to its credit, the article acknowledges that the energy crisis is a direct result of Europe over-investing in unreliable renewables and under-investing in reliable energy sources. “Wind and solar are cleaner but sometimes fickle,” the authors admit, in the understatement of the year, “as illustrated by the sudden drop in turbine-generated power the continent recorded last year.” (I was the first U.S. journalist to report Germany saw its emissions rise 25% in the first half of 2021 due to lack of wind.)
Now, a new analysis from Environmental Progress finds Germany increased its emissions last year and will likely increase them again this year. This year, German electricity generation coming from fossil fuels will be 44% compared to 39% in 2021 and 37 percent in 2020, assuming weather conditions and electricity demand are similar to 2021. Emissions from Germany’s power sector will rise from 244 million tons in 2021 to 264 million tons in 2022.
And Bloomberg notes that Europe is in a full-blown energy crisis. “The retired salt caverns, aquifers, and fuel depots that hold Europe’s stockpiles of natural gas have never been so empty at this point in winter,” it notes, and “the continent is grappling with a supply crunch that’s caused benchmark gas prices to more than quadruple from last year’s levels, squeezing businesses and households. The crisis has left the European Union at the mercy of the weather and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wiles, both notoriously difficult to predict.”
It’s true that American natural gas from fracking, a practice I have defended since 2013, is being shipped to Europe, and will ease Europe’s pain. And it hasn’t helped that France’s leaders have grossly mismanaged their nuclear power plants, resulting in an embarrassing 30% decline in their output during the crisis.
But, notes Bloomberg, the relief provided by American liquified natural gas (LNG) is “temporary at best…. Storage sites [for natural gas] are only 56% full, more than 15 percentage points below the 10-year average… Barring an increase in Russian exports, something that doesn’t appear to be in the cards, levels will be at less than 15% by the end of March, the lowest on record… With the two coldest months of winter still ahead, the fear is that Europe may run out of gas.”
And the lack of nuclear energy underscores the need for more nuclear plants since they are reliable and operate independently of the weather when they are managed well. No matter how well a solar farm is managed, it can’t change the weather.
And now, Russia is massing troops on its border with Ukraine, and may invade. This is a problem since one-third of Russian gas going into Europe goes through Ukraine. If war breaks out, Europe could suffer serious gas shortages. Overdependence on natural gas and renewables, and underinvestment in nuclear, has thus undermined the energy security, and thus national security, of Europe since heads of state dependent on Russian gas will be less likely to speak out against an invasion.
Even longtime natural gas and renewable energy boosters agree there’s a crisis. “The ability of Europe and the U.S. to respond to a Russian invasion is constrained both by a desire not to exacerbate Europe’s energy crisis by sanctioning Russian energy exports and, more broadly, by the threat that Russia could retaliate to any confrontation by restricting gas flows into Europe, as Russia did in 2006 and 2009,” Jason Bordoff, a former Obama administration official, told Bloomberg.
Covid accelerated many trends and one of them is the recognition that unreliable and weather-dependent renewables cannot power modern economies. Senator Joe Manchin specifically mentioned the role that renewables are playing in making America’s electricity less reliable when he killed Build Back Better legislation in December. The Netherlands mentioned the need for reliable electricity when it announced plans to expand nuclear energy.
Now, with New England at grave risk of energy shortages for the exact same reasons as Europe, it’s time for the American people and their representatives to fully wake up to the reality that modern societies cannot rely on unreliable renewables. It would also help if the renewable energy industry, and its dogmatic supporters, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Rep. Sean Casten, and Rep. Jared Huffman, would stop trying to censor and otherwise shut down the people who raised the alarm about the coming crisis in the first place.