Thanks to NATO and Russia, Europe Is going Back to Coal
Side effects of the sanctions imposed on Russia
At least three European countries have announced their intention to get their coal industry back on track in order to offset the gas crisis: Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Yet, what is on top of the agenda across the Western world is the transition to clean energy. But the European Union (EU) has pledged to block most Russian oil imports by the end of the year. Russia currently supplies 27% of the oil imported from the EU and 40% of its gas.
In Germany, after a major earthquake caused the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel had made it clear that her country would shut down all its nuclear power plants to focus on clean energy. Germany once possessed 17 nuclear reactors; there are only three left, all of which will be decommissioned by the end of the year. This is why Germany has become increasingly dependent on Russian gas, the solar and wind powers being more or less reliable.
But the European Union has decided to ban Russian oil before the end of the year, thereby making things difficult for European states that rely on Russian hydrocarbons. Worse: a project to build a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany has been frozen. So, the Germans have no choice but to review their strategy and turn again to coal.
As for Germany’s neighbor, Austria, its government has also announced a return to the coal era, relaunching the production of electricity using this polluting material at a time when Russia is curbing the flow of natural gas towards Europe, in response to European sanctions. Verbund AG, an Austrian state-controlled utility company, has been ordered to reopen its Mellach coal-fired power station that was shut down two years ago as Austria became the second European country to phase out electricity production from coal.
The Netherlands is the latest country to jump on the coal bandwagon. The country’s government said it needed to take immediate steps to reduce the consumption of gas, thus lifting limits on coal-fired electric power stations until 2024.
The Green Delusions
Europe produces 3.6 million barrels of oil per day, but needs 15 million. It also produces 230 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, but it needs 560 billion. Quite the opposite of Russia, which produces 11 million barrels of oil per day, but only needs 3.5 million, while it extracts more than 700 billion cubic meters of gas per year, but uses only about 400 billion.
In recent years, the country of Vladimir Putin has increased its production of oil, gas and nuclear energy, which has enabled it to export more of these hydrocarbons. Europe, led by Germany, chose instead to shut down its nuclear power plants and put an end to the exploitation of gas fields. The results have been catastrophic: in 2016, 30% of the natural gas consumed by the European Union came from Russia; in 2018, this figure went up to 40%, and to 47% at the start of 2021.
Between 2015 and 2025, Germany will have injected a total of 580 billion dollars to green its energy production. Yet, German electricity costs 50% more than that of nuclear-friendly France, and its production generates eight times more carbon emissions per unit.