At the beginning of March, Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s Executive Vice President for the European Green New Deal and European Commissioner for Climate Action, announced that EU nations planning to burn coal as an alternative to Russian natural gas are not out of line with the EU’s climate goals.
The news came just a week ago that United Kingdom housing secretary Michael Gove would likely approve the nation’s first new coal mine in three decades. The new plant, if approved, would produce coking coal for steelmaking. The reason? Russian coal is toxic now.
In Germany, whose leaders have been busy decommissioning nuclear plants, RWE, Vattenfall, and Steagare now preparing to run their coal-fired power plants perhaps long beyond yesterday’s 2030 death date. Today, German coal companies are preparing power plants to operate at full speed, arming themselves in the event Russia cuts off all natural gas supplies.
Germany has even greenlighted drilling for natural gas by a Dutch company in the North Sea about 20 kilometers north of the Wadden Sea Islands. To make this happen, the German government opted to relax its attitude about oil and gas drilling in its territories.
The Germans last year got almost 30 percent of their electricity from nearly 26 gigawatts of active coal capacity on the grid. But other coal-fired power plants previously available only as a reserve could beef that total up to 34 GW; still other coal plants are already off the grid.
Other European buyers are purchasing coal from South Africa now that Russian coal is unsellable with many European utilities. Coal flows from South Africa, Colombia, and even the United States to Europe have increased in recent weeks as Putin rages. Historically, most South African coal has gone to India and other Asian markets.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi recently acknowledged that coal-fired power plants there may need to be reopened in the wake of Russian aggression. Putin, it seems, has put the Green Revolution on hold.
And for good reason.
As Bill Winters, CEO of the British multinational banking and financial services firm Standard Chartered, said just last week, “The idea that we can turn off the taps and end fossil fuels tomorrow, it’s obviously ridiculous and naïve. First of all, it’s not going to happen and secondly, it would be very disruptive.”
Fossil fuels, Winters explained, play a crucial role in developed and emerging economies and companies continue to discover and develop oil and gas fields around the world. “In many of the emerging markets that Standard Chartered serves, if we tell them that, one, we’re about to screw you and, two, you’re going to have to pay for it, well, they’re going to say, fine, we’re not going to be a part of that system.”
Winters’ words were bile to climate activists and the socialists at the World Economic Forum who demand an immediate end to fossil fuel financing and a rapid phaseout of all fossil fuel energy as early as 2030 but surely by 2050. Those most offended, however, may be the minions at the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fearful crowd who have for decades predicted impending climate catastrophe.
An IPCC working group just announced that the world must get serious about ending carbon dioxide emissions immediately in order to meet the doomsday standard of 1.5o C above pre-industrial levels. Worldwide emissions must begin to fall by 2025 or we are all doomed, said the well-endowed panel.
The world is, however, well informed that China has no plans to cut emissions anytime soon, nor does India. African nations insist that their long-suppressed economies must rely on domestic oil, natural gas, and even coal to bring the “dark” continent into the 21st Century – something that many environmental and cultural activists have joined their colonialist (and slave selling) forebears have prevented for centuries.
Across the pond, however, the Biden-Kerry administration is holding firm while pretending that they are capitulating a tiny bit to worldwide demand for fossil fuels from the United States. Biden mockingly announced he was unfreezing its ban on oil and gas lease sales on public lands but also increasing royalty rates so as to make drilling less profitable.
Kerry, dubbed Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, groused that the lease sales are all right only if the resulting production is “geared to be able to deal with the need for economic stability in order to make the transitions that we need” and as long as any new wells are “a temporary measure to try to relieve the price pressure.” He had to hate saying that.
The West has little control over Russian, Chinese, and even Indian energy production and use but has maintained a stranglehold on African energy development by Africans for Africa. It was just last September, for example, that the EU’s European Investment Bank announced a two-year phaseout of lending to African fossil fuel projects.
We are still waiting for the bank to rescind that order. Or to announce any new partnerships to assist African energy production that supports African infrastructure development.
Meanwhile, African nations are learning that existing exploration and development companies have discovered massive deposits that need further funding to bring production online. With European and American financing increasing off limits, Namibian minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo has called on private African investors, rather than governments, to invest in Africa’s oil and gas sector.
And NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the Africam Energy Chamber, has proposed that Europeans concerned about climate change should decarbonize their economies while aiding Africa in industrialization – buying more energy products from Africa to stimulate economic growth in the world’s poorest continent.
Ayuk argues that heavily industrialized Europe is well-positioned to decarbonize its high-emitting sectors as a result of technologies, a strong regulatory framework, and wealth built on the use of “dirty” fuels.
Countries in the EU, Ayuk noted, are responsible for 18 percent of global CO2 emissions, nine times that of the much larger sub-Saharan African subcontinent. Yet EU nations continue to call for an end to African oil and gas development despite holding licensing rounds to develop their own fossil fuel resources.
Meanwhile, Ayuk stated, Africa has largely undeveloped reserves estimated at 125.3 billion barrels of crude oil, 620 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 16.4 billion short tons of coal. Africa, he said, has the chance to accelerate development across its entire economy, driven by by the exploration, production, and most importantly utilization of its fossil fuel reserves.
“Oil and gas,” concluded Ayuk, has the capacity to “enable Africa to improve access to energy and lift the over 600 million people across the continent out of energy poverty; significantly reduce the continent’s dependence on energy imports; and provide the much-needed revenue which African governments can utilize to fund infrastructure rollout in various sectors including energy, mining, transportation and health which are vital for economic stability.”
What say you, Europe? [We know the Biden-Kerry zealots will not agree.]
Four hundred years of colonialism continued through suppressing economic development and killing the dreams of millions of young would-be African entrepreneurs?
Or acknowledging that Africans, too, have the right to self-governance, economic growth toward at least a modest prosperity, and while we are at it, a serious assault on life-threatening diseases that plague Africa today even if long ago brought under control or eliminated in the global north?
- Duggan Flanakin
- Duggan Flanakin is the Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. A former Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Mr. Flanakin authored definitive works on the creation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and on environmental education in Texas. A brief history of his multifaceted career appears in his book, “Infinite Galaxies: Poems from the Dugout.”
May 7, 2022