1) Build Back Blacker: Both coal and CO2 emissions hit record levels in 2021
The Australian, 14 January 2022
Coal generated more power in 2021 than at any other time in history as the energy crisis in Europe and China pushed up power prices and forced a switch back to coal generators, according to the International Energy Agency.
And that pushed up carbon emissions from the world’s electricity networks to record levels, according to the IEA, reversing the trend of the previous two years, as coal-fired generators added an extra 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.
The latest edition of the IEA’s Electricity market report, released twice each year, says surging electricity demand is putting power systems under strain across the world as economies surge back from the coronavirus pandemic.
Exacerbated by colder than average winters in the northern hemisphere and a warmer summer, demand for electricity rose 6 per cent in 2021 – the biggest jump since 2010, when the last commodities boom was in full swing amid a recovery from the global financial crisis.
And while renewable energy sources also grew by 6 per cent in 2021, their contribution was far outstripped by the coal-fired power stations which stepped up to contribute more than half of the power needed to close the gap caused by “galloping” energy demand.
While demand for cheaper coal-fired electricity surged across most of the world, Australia largely bucked that trend, according to the IEA, with a 1 per cent growth in electricity use largely supplied by additional renewable energy sources.
Australian power networks added 1 .3 gigawatts of new wind capacity and 4.7GW of solar in 2021, with the IEA expecting similar growth in renewables over the next two years as ageing coal-fired generators – such as AGL’s Liddell plant – are retired.
Record gas prices in Europe drove a switch to coal in many countries, the IEA said – despite record-high carbon pricing – as did surging domestic gas prices in the US.
“Coal-fired generation grew by 9 per cent, serving more than half of the increase in demand and reaching a new all-time peak as high natural gas prices led to gas-to-coal switching,” the IEA said in its latest report, released on Friday.
“Gas-fired generation grew by 2 per cent, while nuclear increased by 3.5 per cent, almost reaching its 2019 levels.”
And, while the IEA noted that November’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow led to a raft of new promised to phase out coal, its projections showed that any real reduction in coal-fired generation is still some years away. […]
Executive director Fatih Biro said last year’s spikes in energy prices – particularly in Europe, China and India – were contributing to social and political tensions, with the IEA price index for wholesale power prices doubling during the year.
And, with the IEA expecting the contribution of fossil fuels to the global energy mix to decline only slowly over the next two years – from 58 per cent in 2021 to about 58 per cent by 2024 – Dr Birol said the promises made in Glasgow look increasingly difficult to realise.
“Emissions from electricity need to decline by 55 per cent by 2030 to meet our Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, but in the absence of major policy action from governments, those emissions are set to remain around the same level for the next three years,” Dr Birol said.
“Not only does this highlight how far off track we currently are from a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, but it also underscores the massive changes needed for the electricity sector to fulfil its critical role in decarbonising the broader energy system.”
2) No shit Sherlock: Yachts to be exempt from EU’s carbon pricing planZero Hedge, 14 January 2022
If there is anyone still confused why ESG, and the entire “green” movement is one giant, boiling cauldron of lies, hypocrisy and fraud, read on.
Last summer, we reported that the European Commission – that murder of career bureaucrats – has proposed exempting private jets, the one most polluting form of transportation, from the planned EU jet fuel tax. A draft indicated that the tax would be phased-in for passenger flights, including ones that carry cargo. Private jets will enjoy an exemption through classification of “business aviation” as the use of aircraft by firms for carriage of passengers or goods as an “aid to the conduct of their business”, if generally considered not for public hire. It gets better: a further exemption is given for “pleasure” flights whereby an aircraft is used for “personal or recreational” purposes not associated with a business or professional use.
This is odd because a recent report found that private-jet CO2 emissions in Europe rose by 31% between 2005 and 2019, with flights to popular destinations up markedly during summer holiday seasons. So if Europe was truly concerned about curbing CO2 emissions it would ostensibly go after some of the biggest culprits… but no.
Of course, since it is mostly billionaires and the ultra wealthy that fly private, and these same billionaires and ultra wealthy tend to be exempt from regulations (which are usually written by politicians that the ultra rich have previously bribed or bought) that apply to the rest of the peasantry, this was hardly a huge surprise.
Which is why we doubt that the latest news showing just how pervasive the “green” hypocrisy is, will also come as a surprise.
According to a new report from Transport & Environment (T&E) titled “Climate Impacts of Exemptions to EU’s Shipping Proposals:Arbitrary exemptions undermine integrity of shipping laws” , more than half of Europe’s ships would be exempt from the European Commission’s carbon pricing plan for the sector. Among them: highly polluting if extremely desirable – for the Monte Carlo set – yachts.
According to the report, in July 2021, the European Commission published a set of proposals to decarbonize the maritime sector. However, what quietly not mentioned, is that the proposed carbon pricing scheme (ETS) and the low GHG fuel standard (FuelEU Maritime) will only apply to ships above 5,000 GT and exclude a number of ship types such as offshore vessels, fishing vessels and…. yachts.
It appears that a size threshold was implemented after the fact precisely the allow yachts to be among the vessels exempt from the regulation.
3) UK government set to penalise petrol and diesel drivers next year with new carbon taxes
Daily Express, 14 January 2022
Sean Kemple, spokesperson for Close Brothers Motor Finance, has warned some petrol and diesel owners would be more affected based solely on the “type of vehicle they are purchasing”. Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates are set to rise across the board from April.
However, drivers owning models which produce a lot of air pollution are set to be the most affected.
VED rates for vehicles that produce over 255 g/km of CO2 pollution will rise to £2,365.
This will be a massive £120 increase from the current 2021 rate.
Meanwhile, drivers of cars producing 226 to 255 g/km will see a £105 rise, with fees for cars producing 191 to 225 g/km increasing by £75.
Price rises will be seen across all vehicles except for those producing less than 75 g/km of CO2.
Mr Kemple has also warned of the “challenge” ahead as drivers look to switch to electric cars.
He said the Government would need to “offset” tax revenues as more drivers started to ditch their existing petrol and diesel cars.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “You can see the incentive from a tax perspective of road tax and benefit in kind moving towards lower emission vehicles.
4) Energy crisis: Families are “rationing fuel or turning off fridge freezers” due to soaring energy prices
The Sun, 13 January 2022
MILLIONS of low-income households face spending more than a third of their benefit income on gas and electricity as the energy crisis continues.
Citizens Advice is calling for extra government support as frontline staff now report helping one person every 40 seconds with a fuel debt issue.
Citizens Advice is warning that further rises to the cap will put energy bills as a proportion of benefit levels at a generational high and tip many more into hardshipRecord wholesale gas prices have pushed up the cost of energy bills.
The energy price cap is set by regulator Ofgem to limit how much out-of-contract gas and electricity customers pay.
It already increased from £1,138 to £1,277 in October 2021 and is expected to rise by another £700 this April.
It could put the average household bill at more than £2,000.
Citizens Advice is warning that further rises to the cap will put energy bills as a proportion of benefit levels at a generational high and tip more people into hardship. […]
Millions could be affected as up to 2.1million single adults without children currently claim this basic rate of Universal Credit.
The charity’s advisers are already seeing increased calls for support.
Citizens Advice said it is receiving increasing numbers of enquiries from people facing what it describes as desperate choices because they are unable to keep pace with the soaring cost of living.
In December 2021, its consumer service supported double the number of people who’d run out of money to top up their prepayment meter, compared with the same time last year.
Nicola Duffy, energy and consumer team leader at Citizens Advice Newcastle, said: “In more than twenty years of advising, this is the worst it’s ever been.
“We’re seeing people ration their fuel, or have their emergency prepayment meter run out when they’re at least a week away from their next benefit payment.”
5) Energy firm E.ON angers customers by sending SOCKS to ‘lower’ heating bills as prices soar
The Sun, 14 January 2022
ENERGY firm Eon has angered customers by sending out socks in the post to “lower” heating bills as energy price soar.
The energy crisis has seen bills rocket, adding hundreds of pounds more to households costs.
Furious customers have complained about the promotion, saying the supplier was “having a laugh” and “taking the p**s”.
It comes after another energy supplier SSE came under fire for telling its customers to do star jumps and cuddle their pets to keep warm.
The socks from E.ON arrived with a message encouraging customers to turn their heating down and reduce carbon emissions.
They were sent out to 30,000 customers who had previously shown an interest in energy saving.
One angry E.ON customer tweeted: “Seriously, energy prices are going up, Look what E.ON Next (as they’ve renamed themselves) have sent me, a pair of socks!! What the bloody hell”
Another said: ” Are you having a laugh? Putting energy prices up then take the p**s by sending a pair of socks. Is that meant to make up for not being able to heat flat.”
A third said: “I had SSE email recommending cuddling the cat and start jumps… my relative has today received from E.ON, an actual pair of socks.”
Other customers also questioned the energy saving credentials of sending out the socks.
6) Rob Lyons: How green policies are fuelling the energy crisisSpiked, 9 January 2022
We have swapped abundant and reliable sources of energy for intermittent renewables.
Energy prices have shot up across the globe over the past few months. Given that prices were very low a year ago in the midst of a global pandemic, a bounceback was inevitable as the world economy went into catch-up mode. However, beneath these short-term trends lies a bigger issue: green policies have pushed energy prices up – and will keep them that way.
UK natural gas prices are up threefold from a year ago. They spiked at 470p per therm on 21 December. Thankfully, a mild Christmas and New Year period, along with the arrival of liquified natural gas (LNG) tankers in Europe from the US, brought prices back down to 171p per therm by last Friday. However, natural-gas storage levels across Europe are low, dependence on supplies from Russia is acute and world demand is high. If the weather turns cold and the wind drops, reducing our production of electricity from wind turbines, then pressure on prices could quickly return. Indeed, the decline in prices may already be over.
What’s more, it’s not just the price of natural gas that has shot up as the world economy has recovered. The benchmark Brent crude-oil price has gone up over the past year, too, from $51 per barrel to $80, which has translated into sharp price increases at the pumps. Meanwhile, with all the demand for natural gas, electricity producers have been switching to coal. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted record electricity production from coal in a report last month, as well as rising prices for the black stuff.
One impact of all this has been a sharp increase in household energy bills. Under Theresa May’s government, an energy price cap was introduced, ostensibly to prevent energy companies fleecing loyal customers while offering big discounts to those who were prepared to switch suppliers. Right now, there are no cheap deals, because all the energy suppliers are operating at the price-cap level (and losing money hand over fist while they do it). The price cap will certainly rise massively in April when it is due for review. It could rise by as much as 50 per cent, as energy firms demand the opportunity to claw back those losses. Already by early December, 28 UK energy suppliers had gone bust, including the seventh-biggest, Bulb.
Ah, say green campaigners, this just shows the danger of relying on fossil fuels: renewables are a much better bet. Not only are renewables better for the environment, we also won’t have to rely on foreign dictators for our energy supply – we can produce our own energy through wind and solar, they say. In this vein, the IEA has rejected the idea that green policies have anything to do with the current energy problems. ‘Recent increases in global natural-gas prices are the result of multiple factors, and it is inaccurate and misleading to lay the responsibility at the door of the clean-energy transition’, said the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, in a statement back in September.
Not so fast. Yes, the collapse and resurgence of the world economy is clearly a dominant factor right now. Another IEA analysis, from October, did a decent job of pulling together all the different factors pushing up global prices.
For example, maintenance work that was put off during the pandemic and has now started has hit supplies; the cold 2020 winter ran down European gas stocks; light winds forced more electricity production from gas; a dry year in Brazil reduced hydro-electric output; and there has been lower-than-expected supply from Russia – with arguments raging about just how much that is due to political manoeuvring.
But green policies have had multiple negative impacts nonetheless. For starters, European countries like Poland, France and the UK could have been acquiring sizeable amounts of gas from fracking, but development has been shunned thanks to green lobbying, which has exaggerated the safety risks. Natural-gas prices are, right now, much lower in fracking-friendly America. At the same time, eco-warriors are also helping to shut down Europe’s low-carbon nuclear-energy industry, with three German plants closing at the end of last year, heaping more pressure on other energy sources.
Added to this, investment in new fossil-fuel extraction is being strongly discouraged more generally. Energy giant Shell recently pulled out of a partnership applying for the right to develop the Cambo oilfield, west of Shetland, not least since the SNP-Green coalition government in Edinburgh called for the development to be stopped (though it does not have the final say on the project).
Other big companies must also be a bit nervous about developing new long-term, non-renewable supplies when Net Zero targets have been embraced by governments around the world. Why spend a fortune on new oilfields when petrol and diesel cars will soon be phased out? Why develop gas fields when domestic boilers are likely to go the same way?
As demand has shot up, we have not been able to ramp up existing oil and gas resources sufficiently. The worry is that energy companies see the current rise in prices as temporary and are focusing instead on the long-term regulatory shift against fossil fuels. If so, they may not make the necessary investments now to secure supplies for the future.
Meanwhile, wind and solar have reminded us of their fatal flaw: intermittency. We should not have to rely on the weather being kind to power modern industrial societies. Proponents say that renewables are cheap, but they still require reliable backup from gas- and coal-fired power plants that are much more expensive to run, because they are not allowed to run all the time.
We are paying the price for all this in our energy bills. In the year ahead, a combination of tax rises and energy-price hikes is going to create a major squeeze on our living standards. Suspending green levies and VAT on fuel could help ameliorate those rises. But the long-term problem is that green policies mean more expensive energy – by design. Campaigners and politicians will ensure we use less fossil-fuel energy by making it as costly as possible – and for many people, unaffordable.
Until we have affordable and reliable low-carbon energy, the rush to Net Zero will come at enormous expense to the public.
7) Javier Blas: Earlier than ever, European gas storage is half-empty
Bloomberg, 13 January 2022
Russia is restricting supply westward and tweeting reminders of the perilous gas situation faced by Europe.
On Christmas eve, Gazprom, the Russian state-owned natural gas giant, tweeted a rather unfestive message: Gas inventories in Europe were depleting quickly. Since then, Gazprom has been reminding the world of the trend every few days. “It should be noted that gas reserves in Europe’s UGS [underground gas storages] are currently at their lowest for the season in the long history of observation,” it tweeted again earlier this week.
Gazprom is right. On Thursday, Gas Infrastructure Europe, an industry association, announced that European gas inventories had dropped below the key 50% mark of total capacity, down to 49.33% as of Jan. 12. It’s the earliest the half-empty mark has ever been reached, beating the previous record by seven days. Typically, Europe’s gas inventories don’t fall to half until about early-to-mid February. During some mild winters, the inventories don’t sink below midpoint until early March.
Running on Empty
The biggest ally of Europe in the gas crisis has so far been the weather. Only a month ago, many feared the 50% level would be breached on New Year’s day. Unseasonal temperatures cut consumption and helped to avoid that scenario. The arrival of liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargos also alleviated the crunch. Some big energy consumers — like fertilizer companies, glass manufacturers and aluminum and zinc smelters — also shut down production.
With nearly half of January gone, there are few meteorological signs of the feared cold snap. Indeed, if the current forecasts hold, temperatures may rise above seasonal levels during the second half of the month.It could still get colder, but typically Jan. 28 marks an inflection point in European winter, when the season starts to gently warm, according to 30-year average trends. Each day without a cold snap after that date is a day closer to spring — and relief for the gas market. Still, prices for European gas — and electricity — remain elevated, with benchmark gas trading around 75 to 80 euros ($86 to $91.74) per megawatt hour, about 300% above the 2010-2019 average but well below a peak of nearly 188 euros per MWh set in December.
Gazprom is the main reason why – and not because of its tweets. Russia has kept the pressure on the European gas market by turning down supplies. The Yamal-Europe pipeline, a major conduit of Russian gas into Germany, hasn’t shipped a single molecule of gas for 23 consecutive days. Flows via other pipelines remain well below normal levels. Gazprom says it’s meeting all its contractual obligations with customers in Europe. And the customers agree. What the Russian energy behemoth isn’t doing, as it does normally in winter, is to offer gas on the spot market above and beyond its long-term contracts.
Why not is a matter of hot debate. Some argue the company doesn’t have the gas to sell because domestic demand is running very high and exports to China are rising. Others, however, believe Russia is manufacturing a gas crisis for political leverage over Ukraine.
What’s clear is that with half of January gone, and the weather indicating more mild temperatures until February, the biggest risk is no longer a cold winter — but what Russia can do to supplies.
8) Europe’s green suicide: EU climate goals to cost Poland €530 billion by 2030Notes from Poland, 12 January 2022
As the European Union debates more ambitious climate goals as part of its “Fit for 55” plan, economists in Poland estimate that the green transformation would cost the bloc’s most coal-reliant country €527.5 billion by 2030, of which around €300 billion would need to be covered by Poland itself.
The main author of the report, however, believe that the required level of investment is feasible and could be offset by future savings in energy bills and public health gains.
The EU package, currently under discussion in Brussels, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% relative to 1990 levels by 2030. This would be achieved by, amongst other measures, shrinking CO2 allowances in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Analysts at Pekao, a state-owned bank, believe that this will cost Poland €190 billion more than meeting the previous goal of 40% (dubbed “Fit for 40”), according to the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily.
A copy of the bank’s report seen by the newspaper – and reportedly also discussed by the government – estimates that the ambitious new plans will cost Poland €527.5 billion by 2030, compared to the cost of €338 billion for meeting the Fit for 40 targets.
The breakdown of costs would include investments in the energy sector (€186 billion), household energy efficiency schemes (almost €100 billion), and paying for CO2 emissions (€33 billion).
Poland will need to reduce its total ETS allowances by 4.2% annually, rather than 2.2% as previously planned. Adding new sectors to the ETS, such as buildings and transport, may carry additional costs of around €19 billion.
The report assumes that the price of a tonne of CO2 would reach €129 by 2030, from its current level of around €80.
9) Walter Russell Mead: Putin is running rings around the WestThe Wall Street Journal, 12 January 2022
While U.S. and European leaders natter about soft power, Russia’s president is making power moves.
Nobody knows whether Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine, but it is increasingly clear that a divided and confused Western alliance doesn’t know how to deal with the challenge he poses.
Lost in a narcissistic fog of grandiose pomposity, Western diplomats spent the past decade dismissing the Russian president as the knuckle-dragging relic of a discarded past. As then-Secretary of State John Kerry sniffed during Mr. Putin’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pretext.”
Neville Chamberlain learned more from failure at Munich than the current generation of Western leaders learned from failure in Crimea. Convinced that the old rules of power politics don’t apply in our enlightened posthistorical century, Europeans nattered on about soft power only to find themselves locked out of key U.S.-Russia talks over Ukraine. As China and Russia grew more powerful and assertive, Americans enthusiastically embraced the politics of mean-spirited polarization and domestic culture wars. Now the Biden administration is simultaneously proclaiming overseas that America is back, in all its order-building awesomeness, and maintaining at home that democracy is one voting-rights bill away from collapse.
Pathetic throwback that he is, Mr. Putin used his time differently, rebuilding the Soviet Union under the nose of a feckless and distracted West. Because Russia hasn’t annexed breakaway republics, many observers underestimate how successful Mr. Putin’s reassembly of the U.S.S.R. has been. But it is hegemony, not uniformity, that he wants. Stalin insisted on enrolling Ukraine and Belarus as founding members of the United Nations while they were part of the Soviet Union; Mr. Putin might be happy to keep them nominally independent under Russian control. In many Soviet republics, Moscow ruled through local strongmen. When the Soviet Union collapsed, leaders like Azerbaijan’s Ayaz Mutalibov, Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev made a seamless transition to running the republics as personal fiefs. Mr. Putin’s goal is to re-establish ultimate control while leaving subordinate rulers in place.
It’s working. In 2020 he reasserted Russian control over the South Caucasus by ending the Azerbaijani-Armenian war on his terms. Last spring as the West huffed and puffed, Mr. Putin kept Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in power. Last week Mr. Putin established himself as the supreme arbiter of Kazakhstan, providing the political and military assistance that allowed President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to crush a revolt. In most of the former Soviet Union today, Mr. Putin decides who rules and who weeps. Of the 15 constituent republics of the old Soviet Union, only five (the three Baltic states, Moldova and Ukraine) have held him at arm’s length. Georgia clings precariously to the shreds of a once-robust independence; the American withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan more dependent on Moscow than ever.
Meanwhile, the West is less well positioned to withstand Russian pressure on Ukraine than it was in 2014. Europe’s doubts about American commitment and wisdom are greater than they were then. German pacifism is more deeply entrenched. Brexit has undermined relations among Europe’s chief military powers. Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and natural gas leaves the West as vulnerable as ever to energy blackmail—and sharply limits the West’s ability to impose economic sanctions on a partner without which it can neither heat its homes nor run its factories. Mr. Putin also knows that economic sanctions will fall more heavily on Europe than on the U.S., deepening the fractures in an alliance he hopes to destroy. With oil prices above $80 a barrel and China backing his play, Mr. Putin may be less vulnerable to economic sanctions than the White House hopes.
Washington, meanwhile, is unintentionally but unmistakably telegraphing its vulnerability to blackmail. With the Biden administration lobbying Congress to block sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Moscow can’t be blamed for thinking that the Americans are prepared to pay a price to preserve “stability.”
Mr. Putin is having a great crisis so far and seems to have little to fear. His successes in Belarus and Kazakhstan have thoroughly cowed domestic opposition. The runup in energy prices gives him a cash cushion. The crisis has again put Russia at the center of world politics, demonstrated Western weakness, terrified Ukraine, and highlighted Mr. Putin’s mastery of the game of thrones. His decisions about what to do next will depend entirely on what he thinks will advance Russia’s core goals. Haggle at the bargaining table while Western unity frays? Seize a chunk of Ukraine while the West sputters with impotent moralism? Magnanimously accept Western concessions and return to stability until the next time?
Mr. Putin’s success is the measure of Western intellectual and political failure. Until Western leaders emerge from the mists of posthistorical illusion and recover the lost art of effective foreign policy, he will continue to make gains at our expense.
10) Energy industry blames Biden’s oil-and-gas crackdown for higher pricesThe Washington Times, 12 January 2022
President Biden’s crackdown on the oil-and-gas industry is driving soaring energy prices, and Build Back Better will only push costs higher, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
In his 2022 State of American Energy address Wednesday, API President Mike Sommers said the U.S. position is strong, but that “we begin 2022 with Americans viewing energy and its cost as major concerns.”
“This is in part because lately, we’ve seen policies aimed at restricting production and delivery of U.S. natural gas and oil,” Mr. Sommers said in the virtual event hosted by the nation’s leading oil-and-gas advocacy group.
He cited President Biden’s day-one cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the administration’s leasing moratorium on federal lands and delays over infrastructure improvements, such as the battle over replacing the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in Michigan.
“Meanwhile, with inflation soaring to historic levels, we’ve seen proposals in Congress for a targeted tax increase for natural gas, and even further restrictions on American energy development,” Mr. Sommers said. “These decisions exacerbate Americans’ concerns and put upward pressure on their energy prices.”
Build Back Better, the Democrats’ $2 trillion climate and social spending bill, includes fees on methane emissions that the industry says will ultimately hit consumers in their pocketbooks.
The measure passed the House in November but remains stalled in the Senate after Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat and a key swing vote, said last month he could not support it.
“Natural gas prices are going up because we’re in the middle of a cold winter, and there have been restrictions on supply that have come as a consequence of some of the policy decisions that have been made by this administration,” Mr. Sommers said. “We’re focused on reversing those policy decisions but at the same time, we have to stop this natural gas tax because that would just mean higher prices for American consumers.”
The API’s message came with the Biden administration’s ambitious climate change agenda facing political headwinds over higher prices and the pump and the thermostat.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast that U.S. homes using natural gas will spend 30% more on heating in the 2021-22 winter, while those heated with electricity will spend 6% more, following “changes to energy supply and demand patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The national average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline on Wednesday was $3.30, an increase of $1.01 from the same date last year, according to the AAA.
Crude oil approached $80 per barrel this week, fueled in part by production cuts in Kazakhstan, an OPEC+ country grappling with social unrest.
The U.S. is the world’s leading oil-producing country, but policies aimed at curtailing production will inevitably result in “consequences,” Mr. Sommers said.
“U.S. policies that restrict domestic production force our country to seek relief from OPEC, undermining our energy independence,” he said. “America should not be in the position of asking for foreign energy supplies, especially when we have abundant resources produced to standards that are among the highest in the world right here at home.”
In August, the Biden administration asked the OPEC nations to pump more oil to bring down skyrocketing fuel prices, a request OPEC and its oil-producing allies rebuffed, prompting industry officials to counter that he should instead encourage U.S. production.
11) Toby Young: The unexpected brilliance of Don’t Look UpThe Spectator, 15 January 2022
Don’t Look Up has got this issue precisely backwards. The problem isn’t that these Cassandras aren’t believed. It’s that every huckster with a ‘The End Is Nigh’ sandwich board around their neck is treated as a visionary prophet
I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Don’t Look Up, the new satirical film on Netflix. It’s about a couple of American scientists who discover a giant ‘planet-killing’ comet that’s going to collide with Earth in just over six months. They try to warn the world about this existential threat but no one takes them seriously, from the President of the United States on down. Some people half-listen, but then get distracted by gossip or greed or lust, and when they do engage they come up with excuses, like pointing out the science is only 99.78 per cent certain, not 100 per cent, so why don’t we just ‘sit tight and assess’? Or maybe we can solve the problem with technology?
In case you haven’t got it yet, Don’t Look Up is an allegory about climate change, with a little bit of Covid denialism thrown in. Writer and director Adam McKay, whose last film was a vicious attack on Dick Cheney, believes we’re burying our heads in the sand when what we should be doing is paying attention to ‘the science’ before it’s too late. In other words, he’s from the Greta Thunberg school of environmental catastrophism. The correct response to the apocalyptic predictions being spat out by computer models, whether designed by epidemiologists or climate scientists, is to panic — big time.
Now, there are flaws in this analogy. Given how many times environmental activists have warned of imminent disaster — Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, said that if we didn’t mend our ways we’d disappear in a cloud of blue smoke by 1988 — it would be more accurate if the two scientists in Don’t Look Up had been telling us a comet was about to destroy our planet roughly once a year for the past 50 years. You think I’m exaggerating?
Peter Wadhams assured us that Arctic ice would disappear by 2015, Prince Charles said that we had eight years left to save the planet 13 years ago, and in 2009 Gordon Brown reduced that to just 50 days. It would hardly be surprising if people had grown a little wary of these doom-mongers.
Yet, incredibly, they haven’t. On the contrary, every time a climate scientist — or a 14-year-old girl — pops up to tell us the Earth is about to catch fire, the reaction of politicians, movie stars, media personalities, recording artists and just about the entire professional class is to start running around like headless chickens.
Don’t Look Up has got this issue precisely backwards. The problem isn’t that these Cassandras aren’t believed. It’s that every huckster with a ‘The End Is Nigh’ sandwich board around their neck is treated as a visionary prophet who can predict the future with 100 per cent accuracy. Where’s Adam McKay been for the past 22 months? Does he really believe the world didn’t panic enough about Covid-19?
He’s like the last man in the theatre after someone’s shouted ‘fire’. Everyone else has stampeded for the exits, but he’s still sitting in his seat, thinking: ‘Why am I the only one taking that warning seriously? What’s wrong with these people?’
So I was all geared up to hate Don’t Look Up. Another 90-minute lecture from a Hollywood liberal about how morally superior he is to the poor schmucks who’ve bought tickets to see his movie. But — and it pains me to say this — it’s actually pretty entertaining. The two leads played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are predictably boring, but some of the supporting roles, such as Meryl Streep as the president and Jonah Hill as her chief of staff (and son) are hilarious. And its scattergun approach to satire, taking shots at everyone from BuzzFeed-style journalists to megalomaniacal tech billionaires, means it inevitably scores some direct hits. Even the most curmudgeonly reactionaries will find it hard to suppress a smile.
The lesson here is that it’s possible to enjoy the work of people on the other side of the political aisle without endorsing their crackpot ideology. Indeed, not only possible but essential, because some of the best work in film and television at the moment is being produced by angry anti–capitalists, whether it’s Succession, Dopesick or The Big Short, which was also written and directed by Adam McKay. You can rail against their hypocrisy — Leonardo -DiCaprio, a UN climate change ambassador, has just been snapped on a 315ft, £100 million superyacht that burns more carbon in seven miles than the average car does in a year. Or you can take a break from the culture wars and appreciate their artistry. You’ll live longer if you do.
12) Justin Haskins: The threat of Covid-style tyranny in the name of ‘fighting climate change’The Federalist, 13 January 2022
A growing movement among some in academia and environmentalist groups pushes openly for radical and in some cases downright authoritarian reforms of Western societies.
How far would you go to mitigate the effects of climate change? If you’re like most people, the answer is, probably not far at all.
According to numerous surveys, the vast majority of Americans aren’t willing to make even modest sacrifices to address global warming. For example, a 2019 survey found 68 percent of Americans wouldn’t agree to pay just $10 extra per month in higher electric bills to “combat climate change.” In the same survey, only 57 percent said they would support paying $1 extra per month.
These views are remarkable for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most striking is that they show there is a huge chasm between how most working families view the issue of climate change compared to ruling class types in government, corporate boardrooms, and academia.
While most Americans have repeatedly resisted calls for dramatic changes to society to battle climate change, elites have worked feverishly to push the world toward adopting a “net-zero” economy. In just the past two years, thousands of businesses, including many large corporations, have committed to phasing out products linked to fossil-fuel use.
Similarly, hundreds of banks and financial institutions in the Glasgow Alliance for Net-Zero — which, together, control more than $130 trillion in assets — have agreed to use their wealth and power to force other businesses and individuals to go what they call “green.”
Push for Radical Reforms
Most disturbing of all, however, a growing movement among some in academia and environmentalist groups pushes openly for radical and in some cases downright authoritarian reforms of Western societies. Perhaps the best illustration is a recent, disturbing paper published by the American Political Science Review and Cambridge University Press, one of the most influential and highly respected academic publishing houses in the world.
In the paper, titled “Political Legitimacy, Authoritarianism, and Climate Change,” professor Ross Mittiga argues that the “climate emergency may legitimate resorts to authoritarianism, both in managing the fallout from impending or unfolding climate catastrophes (i.e., emergency of effects) and in ensuring that such events are more limited in number and scope in the future (i.e., emergency of action).”
For Mittiga, the allegedly dire nature of climate change justifies rethinking democratic norms and Western understandings of individual rights. Mittiga believes freedom is the problem when it comes to mitigating climate change, and that “authoritarianism” — his word, not mine — is justified and perhaps even necessary to ensure humanity doesn’t die from a climate catastrophe.
Reducing Meat Consumption
What, exactly, does Mittiga have in mind?
“For one,” he wrote, “governments might impel citizens to make significant lifestyle changes. One pertinent example concerns curbing meat-heavy diets, common in the Global North, given the enormous carbon footprint of animal agriculture.”
Although banning meat consumption would ordinarily be “considered an unacceptably paternalistic affront to individual autonomy,” Mittiga admits, “there is by now extensive evidence that it is likely impossible to avoid catastrophic climate change without drastic reductions in animal agriculture.”
Limiting Democracy and Free Speech
Mittiga doesn’t stop with meat consumption, either. He also suggests “a censorship regime that prevents the proliferation of climate denialism or disinformation in public media,” as well as “relaxing property rights in order to nationalize, shutter, or repurpose certain companies.”
Even democracy itself is too dangerous for Mittiga, who says governments could “justifiably limit certain democratic institutions and processes to the extent these bear on the promulgation or implementation of environmental policy.”
For example, anyone running for office could be subjected to a “climate litmus-test,” and governments “may establish institutions capable of overturning previous democratic decisions (expressed, for example, in popular referenda or plebiscites) against the implementation of carbon taxes or other necessary climate policies.”
Extremism Becoming Normalized
It isn’t surprising that a radical environmentalist would make the sort of sweeping, dictatorial suggestions made by Mittiga in his article. Far-left blogs like Daily Kos have been full of this sort of nonsense for many years.
But it is incredibly disturbing that one of the world’s most important and influential academic presses, Cambridge University Press, and one of the nation’s most prestigious academic political science journals, the American Political Science Review, would agree to promote such an extremist view. It appears to be a clear sign that environmental extremism is becoming normalized — at least among influential academics.
That might not concern you today, but it should. Every socialistic, economically disastrous, and authoritarian idea now popular today was first normalized among academic elites. Further, Mittiga’s foundational argument — that responsible governments ought to engage in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian activities when a crisis becomes large enough to justify it — has essentially become standard operating procedure in our coronavirus-dominated world.
Just a few years ago, could you imagine a world in which Australia would force its citizens to live in government concentration camps? Or one where friends and family members would be arrested in Canada for doing nothing more than trying to hold a New Year’s Eve party with six people in attendance? Or one in which churchgoers in America’s Bible Belt would be fined $500 for attending a drive-in church service without permission from the government? And yet, these policies have now become the “new normal.”
With these examples in mind, is it really so hard to envision what truly horrific things government would do if enough people were to believe that the world is on the brink of an existential global warming catastrophe? Of course not. That is precisely why Mittiga’s article and the reckless decisions by Cambridge University Press and the American Political Science Review to publish it matter so much.
If Americans don’t swiftly condemn the normalization of authoritarianism, it will become our terrifying reality. Unlike with the coronavirus, for most of us, concerns over climate change will not fade in our lifetimes. Once climate authoritarianism is in place, it might never go away.