Thursday, December 9, 2021

Net Zero Watch - Putin's energy blackmail: Nord Stream 2 or War


In this newsletter:

1) Putin ‘is ready to invade Ukraine in the new year’
The Times, 6 December 2021

2) Gustav Gressel: Why Russia could invade Ukraine again
European Council on Foreign Relations, 3 December 2021

3) Daniel Markind: Belarus threat shows the importance of energy independence
Forbes, 1 December 2021

4) WSJ: Rogues are on the march around the world
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2021
5) U.S. to become ‘energy dominant’ on global price jump, Bank of America says 
Bloomberg, 1 December 2021

6) Rising energy bills to plunge 1 million pensioners into fuel poverty
Daily Express, 6 December 2021
7) Lack of political support ‘killed Cambo project’
The Sunday Times, 5 December 2021
8) Alex Brummer: Cost to UK of Shell's decision to pull out of the Cambo oil and gas development will be huge 
Daily Mail, 4 December 2021
9) European auto suppliers warn shift to electric would put 500,000 jobs at risk
Financial Times, 6 December 2021
10) Francis Menton: Fossil fuel restriction dam starting to break
Manhattan Contrarian, 4 December 2021
11) Recent European droughts are not unprecedented, new study finds
Net Zero Watch, 1 December 2021
12) Joel Kotkin: The great nudge
Spiked, 2 December 2021

Full details:

1) Putin ‘is ready to invade Ukraine in the new year’
The Times, 6 December 2021

Presidents Biden and Putin will hold crisis talks tomorrow as Russia plans to mass up to 175,000 troops on the border with Ukraine before a potential invasion next year.

American intelligence officers believe Moscow has drawn up plans for a military offensive on several fronts as the Kremlin continues to move troops, artillery and armour up to the borders of eastern Europe. The crisis has renewed fears that the stand-off over Ukraine, the former Soviet republic that wants to join Nato, could spill into an invasion and war on European soil.

Images from satellites show Russian forces massing on the border, with analysts predicting that the total troop build-up could reach 175,000. Russian reservists have been mobilised to join 50 battlefield groups, along with tanks and artillery. Moscow has dismissed the concerns, claiming that it is conducting routine military exercises, and accused Ukraine and Nato of aggression.

Washington is threatening tough sanctions that could cut off Russia from international financial systems if it does not back down.
“President Biden will underscore US concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the White House said.

Biden said on Friday that the US had prepared the “most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr Putin”. Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said that the US could launch “high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from taking in the past”.
Putin is certain to reaffirm Russia’s opposition to allowing Ukraine to join Nato, although Nato has insisted that Moscow has no say in plans for possible expansion. The US believes Russia has 70,000 troops on the border but Ukraine puts that figure at 94,000. Both assessments believe the Russian strategy allows for swift reinforcements to double the number. Ukraine has warned that Moscow could invade next month. US officials said the groundwork for an invasion was backed by a renewed propaganda campaign from Russian-influenced media groups in Ukraine, blaming Kiev for any potential military escalation.
Maria Zakharova, of the Russian foreign ministry, said: “Russian armed forces on Russian territory is the legal right of a sovereign state. The US media should be concerned by the aggressive activity of the US, not Russia.”
Ukrainian and Nato sources fear that Moscow could use migrants to seize the Suwałki Corridor — a 60-mile sliver of territory between Poland and Lithuania. The corridor is all that connects Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with the rest of the European Union and Nato’s European territories.

Under such a scenario, Russia could push migrants into the corridor and stoke unrest. Russian troops could then sweep in and deploy military patrols along the corridor under the guise of a humanitarian crisis. Such a move would enable Russia to link up its forces in Kaliningrad with Belarus. All this could be achieved in less than two hours, Ukrainian assessments suggest.
A diplomat from eastern Europe told The Times: “Refugees are a very sophisticated weapon if they are weaponised.”
Full story
2) Gustav Gressel: Why Russia could invade Ukraine again
European Council on Foreign Relations, 3 December 2021
Many European leaders do not seem to grasp the seriousness of this moment in the Ukrainian conflict. Unless the West makes a greater effort to counter Russian military coercion, there is no guarantee that Russia will stop with Ukraine.


In recent weeks, warnings about an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine have stirred up a heated debate on how the West should respond. This was particularly apparent following the publication of an article by Samuel Charap, in which he argued that Ukraine needed to either accept the Russian interpretation of the Minsk agreement or face all-out war.
The drama of the debate was heightened by a sketch of a possible Russian military operation against Ukraine in January provided by Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service. The sketch depicts the advance of 40 Russian battalion tactical groups from Crimea, Donbas, Voronezh, and Belarus – a manoeuvre designed to conquer all Ukrainian territory up to the Dnieper river, including Kyiv.

So, will Ukraine no longer be a sovereign state – following either its surrender or conquest – by next year? The situation is more complex than that depicted by some Washington think-tankers. There are many uncertainties in the calculations of both Russia and the West.

Firstly, this sketch of an invasion plan is in line with the recent build-up of forces along the Ukrainian border.
The Russian armed forces are perfectly capable of executing such an operation. And the Russian leadership is determined to use military force to regain imperial control over Kyiv. But planning, rehearsing, and preparing for war is part of the military’s job description. That does not necessarily mean President Vladimir Putin will automatically follow war plans in this form. Military threats, including nuclear threats, have long been part of Moscow’s approach to coercive diplomacy. The West should be used to this by now.

An all-out invasion would certainly be costly for Moscow, in terms of not just international isolation but also loss of life and materiel. Since 2014, Ukrainians have paid a high price for their independence – and they treasure it. Their armed forces have improved in combat readiness and effectiveness. In particular, Ukraine’s seven air assault brigades – staffed by career soldiers – are a force to be reckoned with. And its mechanised forces performed well in recent clashes in Donbas.

Most of Ukraine’s military infrastructure remains in the west, a legacy of the cold war. Accordingly, even a quick initial Russian advance would not overrun much of this infrastructure.

Of course, there are gaps in Ukraine’s air defence and electronic warfare capabilities, which Russia would exploit. But the invasion would not lead to the kind of swift victory Russia won in Georgia in 2008, or could have won over Ukraine in 2014. This would give the West time to react in whatever manner it chose – which, in turn, would make the outcome of the war less predictable and controllable for Russia. However, one can only guess whether Putin believes there is a credible chance of a substantive Western reaction.

The other option often cited in the press is a strategic bombardment campaign. By conducting concerted air and missile strikes on Ukraine, Russia could avoid a bloody land battle. As Ukraine’s air defences rely on Soviet-era systems, Russian aerospace forces know how to detect, jam, suppress, and destroy them. But such a campaign could have a long target list: Ukraine is a large country that contains many military installations. NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Serbia, a much smaller nation, lasted for almost three months.
And history is littered with examples of strategic bombing campaigns that hardened the defenders’ resolve rather than eroding it. As a Russian air campaign against Ukraine dragged on, the West would have time to react.
Therefore, it is difficult to predict whether such a campaign would achieve the desired results.
Russia’s most likely course of action is to launch a limited offensive from Donbas. This would not fundamentally alter the stakes in the conflict – Moscow would deny involvement in it, even though everyone knew the contrary was true. As Russia’s aim would be to destabilise and disrupt rather than conquer, the operation would be swift. This would signal to Kyiv that it could not hide behind its army or Western support: either Ukraine accepted Russia’s conditions or risked further escalation.
And, if the West put up little resistance, Russia could always switch to one of the other two options described above to achieve its goals. Alternatively, if things went badly for Russian-backed forces, it would be relatively easy for the Kremlin to abandon such an endeavour without losing its domestic credibility.
A massive build-up of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border constrains Ukraine’s ability to react to a local offensive in Donbas – making such an operation more predictable and controllable for the Kremlin. Ukraine’s high-readiness forces would be dispersed across the country to guard against a possible incursion from other directions, meaning that they could not be thrown into battle in the east. With the Ukrainian front line exposed, Moscow would have greater freedom of action.

Hence, while the Russian military is making serious preparations for a war, this will not necessarily be an all-out war. Many lesser military scenarios are possible – even likely. As such, the West does not face a stark choice between either abandoning Ukraine or risking total war. It still has enough room to influence Moscow’s calculus, but this would require serious preparations as well.

Russia has a clear aim: to weaken Ukraine so much that it will be relatively easy to control the country’s politics. Moscow can achieve this by forcing Kyiv to implement the Minsk agreement on its terms – which would establish a de facto Russian veto on Ukrainian domestic affairs – and by starting and exploiting anti-government revolts.
Alternatively, Moscow could pressure Washington to ‘deliver’ Ukraine by signing security guarantees that favoured Russia. These guarantees would prohibit Ukraine from not only joining NATO but also engaging in any form of cooperation with the West that would strengthen its resilience. This would eventually force Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Given these considerations, Kyiv may believe that it can either fight for independence now or be forced to do so later – probably in more challenging circumstances. Therefore, Kyiv may believe that it is worth standing up against a militarily superior enemy.

The Finlandisation of Ukraine would have severe effects on the European Union. Not since Joseph Stalin forced ‘friendship and cooperation’ treaties on eastern Europe has any European country faced such harsh restrictions on its external relations. Back then, Finland was the only nation in the region to escape de facto colonisation by the Soviet Union. This was due to its military strength, iron political discipline, and cross-party cooperation on security matters – attributes that Ukraine does not have to the same extent.

If Russia’s coercive strategy works well, there is no guarantee that it will stop with Ukraine. Russia’s current alteration of the force structure in its Western Military District is partly directed against NATO. With Chinese-Russian military cooperation increasing, today’s imponderables may become tomorrow’s possibilities. American generals have long warned Europeans that, in the coming decades, the US may not be in a position to simultaneously protect its Asian and European allies against the threat of both China and Russia.

But Ukraine’s submission to Russian rule is not a foregone conclusion. To prevent this, the West will need to alter Putin’s calculations about the costs and benefits of direct military action: maintaining the status quo would have to be preferable to the anticipated consequences of such action. These consequences should not be limited to sanctions – even if the measures were harsh, Moscow would likely have priced them in.
And, if Russia were to attack, NATO would need to make major alterations to its military posture on its eastern flank. These moves would be more credible if NATO forces deployed to Poland, Slovakia, or Romania, as they would underscore the alliance’s ability to react to any development. Putin, who is playing the long game, would prefer that these troops moved away again following such a deployment.

However, many European leaders do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. One can see this in the defence of Nord Stream 2 in recently leaked German cables to members of the US Congress: Ukraine has a gun to its head, but the German government only seems worried about the survival of its pipeline. Berlin and Paris are resistant to a stronger NATO reaction – citing fears that Russia may feel threatened by a military capable Ukrainian state that has the support of the alliance. This is just the kind of poor judgement that enables Russian military aggression.

For now, many eastern and central European nations may feel secure in the assumption that Washington will protect them by placing Moscow under diplomatic and military pressure. But they should not be complacent: while certain groups of think-tankers have been arguing for concessions to Russia since 2014, their ideas have gained a new resonance this time. A Washington preoccupied with countering Beijing may soon be willing to turn these arguments into policy – not for their brilliance, but for their convenience.
3) Daniel Markind: Belarus threat shows the importance of energy independence
Forbes, 1 December 2021

During the last few weeks, Europe has perched itself on one of its most dangerous periods in the post-Cold War world. 
As the US was busy celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, all sides in Europe were signaling they want to pull back from the brink, but the problems created by the former Soviet Republic of Belarus defy simple solutions. The one thing they show clearly, however, is the importance of energy independence.

The story begins and ends with one man who rules Belarus with an iron fist – Aleksandr Lukashenko. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Belarus, located directly east of Poland, was one of the former Soviet Republics that gained its independence. Some of the republics lurched toward democracy, while others established mixed political systems containing elements of both democracy and autocracy. Belarus, however, turned into nearly a full-fledged dictatorship under the rule of Mr. Lukashenko.

Lukashenko often has acted erratically, as when he dismissed all concerns about Covid-19. He has referred to himself as “Europe’s Last Dictator” and has put down all protests, often violently. In 2020, Lukashenko won an election widely dismissed in the West as fraudulent. The EU responded by slapping sanctions on Mr. Lukashenko.

In an extraordinary and equally callous move, Lukashenko decided to punish the EU by using migrant people as a weapon. He ordered Belarus’ State airline, Balavia, to offer cheap flights from places like Syria and Iraq, knowing that this would bring in tens of thousands of refugees desperate to reach the West. Lukashenko then rounded up the new arrivals in Belarus and transported them to the Polish border, in some cases apparently even providing them with tools like wire cutters for the purpose of cutting the border fence and allowing the migrants to flood into the West.

This has caused massive tension on the Polish-Belarus frontier, of a type that could lead to armed conflict. Poland has been forced to send large amounts of troops to the border and train water cannons and even tear gas on the migrants, as the refugees have begun throwing rocks and bottles at the Polish troops and police across the border. In response, the EU then slapped even more sanctions on Belarus.

Now, in the tit-for-tat game, Lukashenko has threatened to cut off all gas supplies to the West through the pipelines that transverse Belarus.
However, Lukashenko may have overplayed his hand. Quickly, even Russian President Vladimir Putin cautioned Lukashenko, who has otherwise been his close ally. Putin warned that any move by Belarus to shut off the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which runs through Poland to Germany, would cause Russia to default on its energy contracts. This would be dangerous for Putin in light of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is being completed directly from Russia to Germany.

Whether or not Belarus makes good on Lukashenko’s threat, his words have shown the danger of energy dependence on foreign nations, many of which have questionable governments. This becomes even more evident every day in the United States as energy prices soar. As with the situation far away in Belarus, with winter approaching, the forfeiting of American energy independence could have a profound effect on American politics and its economy as well.
4) WSJ: Rogues are on the march around the world
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2021

Iran and Russia give every sign they don’t take President Biden seriously.

If you think President Biden has trouble at home, take a look at what’s happening around the world. Iran, Russia and China are all seeking to establish new regional hegemony, and they’re often working together to do it. Their leaders don’t appear to believe Mr. Biden can or will do anything to stop them.

Iran revealed its disdain for U.S. entreaties last week as nuclear talks resumed in Vienna. The U.S. opened the proceedings with a sanctions waiver to let Iran sell electricity to Iraq. The result? A senior U.S. official conceded Saturday, after the latest round of talks finished, that Iran had shown no willingness to slow its uranium enrichment and even walked back its agreements from previous rounds.

U.S. and European officials briefed the press about Iran’s intransigence but seemed at a loss about how to respond. The Iranians are “continuing to accelerate their nuclear program in particularly provocative ways,” a U.S. official told the press on background, and their “latest provocation” was preparing “for the doubling of their production capacity of 20% enriched uranium” at its secret Fordow facility.

Sounds serious. So what is the U.S. prepared to do? It will beg Iran some more to return to the table with a better attitude.

“The world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance by both sides. The world is prepared even to engage economically with Iran and diplomatically with Iran. But for that, Iran has to show seriousness at the table and be prepared to come back in short order in compliance with the deal,” the U.S. official said. Pleading with Iran to do what it has already refused to do will reinforce the view in Tehran that it will pay no price if it keeps enriching uranium until it gets to the brink of having a bomb.

The Biden Administration’s problem is that it came into office believing that the main threat to world stability was Donald Trump. It really seemed to believe that if the U.S. offered to end sanctions against Iran, the regime in Tehran would return to the 2015 deal.

The U.S. eased some sanctions pre-emptively and hasn’t been willing to hold Iran accountable for refusing to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to monitor its nuclear progress. Asked if the U.S. will offer a censure resolution against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. official danced around.

China is buying Iranian oil in violation of U.S. sanctions, but the U.S. is also doing little about that. The Biden official said that was best handled “diplomatically” and that the President had taken it up directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mr. Biden weakened Mr. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran’s nuclear program and has put nothing but diplomatic entreaties in its place.

Moving on to Russia, the Administration leaked on Friday that it believes Vladimir Putin is moving forces in preparation for an invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment,” a U.S. official told the Washington Post.

The U.S. is predicting dire consequences if Russia does invade, but it hasn’t sold more weapons to Ukraine and couldn’t marshal much collective action at last week’s meeting of NATO ministers. The White House says Mr. Biden will talk with Mr. Putin in a virtual call on Tuesday, though after their first meeting the Russian became more aggressive.

Mr. Biden came to office promising to talk tough against Mr. Putin, unlike Mr. Trump, but his actions have been weaker. He withdrew U.S. sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, even as he tries at every turn to restrict U.S. oil and gas production. Higher global energy prices empower Mr. Putin and Iran.

The American press has forgotten about Afghanistan, but the rest of the world hasn’t. Direct cause and effect are hard to know, but it seems increasingly likely that Mr. Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised doubts among adversaries about U.S. commitments and the President’s judgment. They aim to take advantage.

The world is entering a dangerous period. The hard men in Moscow, Tehran and Beijing are going to test Mr. Biden to expand their power and spheres of influence, and it isn’t at all clear if or how Mr. Biden will respond.
5) U.S. to become ‘energy dominant’ on global price jump, Bank of America says 
Bloomberg, 1 December 2021

The U.S. will become “energy dominant” as its low-cost supplies of oil and natural gas give the nation an edge amid surging global fuel prices, according to Bank of America. 
As the world moves to cleaner sources of power, prices for crude oil, gas and other hydrocarbons will remain high and volatile in places such as Europe and Asia, a scenario that favors significantly lower-priced U.S. exporters, Francisco Blanch, the bank’s managing director of global commodities research, said in a presentation Wednesday.  

“U.S. energy dominance will be in the hydrocarbon sphere,” Blanch said. “The U.S. should have a good run in the 2020s and perhaps the 2030s.” 

The relative abundance of U.S. oil and gas from shale basins stands in contrast to the potentially severe shortages facing Europe and Asia this winter. Though America’s gas exports have soared to a record and drillers are heeding investor calls to rein in spending, the nation hasn’t yet experienced significant supply disruptions. 
6) Rising energy bills to plunge 1 million pensioners into fuel poverty
Daily Express, 6 December 2021

CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the Government to boost winter weather payments for the elderly as pensioners struggle to heat their homes in this winter.

Energy prices are soaring yet key benefits such as the Winter Fuel Payment have not been increased for as much as 20 years. Soaring energy prices could plunge 1.1 million of the poorest pensioner households into “fuel poverty”, unable to heat their homes without plunging below the poverty line.

Around 10,000 Britons die every year because they live in a cold home, charity National Energy Action (NEA) warned.

Chief executive Adam Scorer said the death toll was “shameful, predictable and avoidable” and called on the Government to act.

"Financial support to help older people on low incomes keep warm has not been increased for years and the energy crisis has devalued it even further.”

Mr Scorer added: "We seem to regard thousands of older people dying of the cold as an acceptable and inevitable cost of winter. It isn't, and shame on us for letting it happen year in year out.”

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said pensioners will be forced to choose between eating their homes or eating this winter. "Doing either is a potential risk to their health, especially if they are living with serious underlying health conditions.”

Wholesale gas prices have soared by 250 percent since January, according to industry group Oil & Gas UK.
Full story
7) Lack of political support ‘killed Cambo project’
The Sunday Times, 5 December 2021
Executives involved in the controversial Cambo development have blamed Westminster for the decision by oil giant Shell to pull out of the project.
A senior source said that the UK government’s failure to firmly support both Cambo and wider North Sea investment was a critical factor. The source also criticised the Scottish government, which came out against the scheme this month , saying it had helped generate a “hostile environment” for the project and oil companies.

Cambo has become a focal point for campaigners trying to stop the development of new oil and gas resources.

Westminster suspended exploration licensing ahead of Cop26, increasing frustration in the oil industry, which believes that environmental policies are damaging investment in the ageing basin’s resources.
Shell abruptly pulled the plug on Cambo last week, insisting the economic case was “not strong enough”.

The source said: “It was a business decision, but the external environment affected the economics of the scheme, particularly the potential for protests and continuing legal actions. With all that going on, the lack of clear vocal support from the UK government became a huge issue.”

The source added: “If the government had come out and said ‘we’re backing you on this’, it would have been different. It could have said these are our national resources and we need them to be produced for the energy security of the UK. But we didn’t get a loud clarion call in that regard. The muted nature of the political support was a critical factor.”

A UK government spokesman insisted it was committed to the sector. He said: “At present, 75 per cent of the UK’s primary energy demand comes from oil and gas and it is therefore an important part of our energy mix while we transition to lower carbon alternatives.”
However, Shell, which recently announced plans to move its headquarters from Holland to London, had already suffered a setback for its North Sea plans in October when the regulator rejected a scheme to develop its Jackdaw gas field on environmental grounds.

Westminster is expected to make a decision on whether Cambo should be allowed to proceed in the new year.
The source also criticised the Scottish government’s opposition to the scheme.
He said: “The noise from environmentalist activists was amplified by the Scottish government’s opposition. It hasn’t helped. It will embolden protesters and Scotland may well see the impact of that on investment and energy sector jobs.”
Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB trade union also fired back at comments from Scottish minister and Greens leader Patrick Harvie who had said that only the “hard right” supported new oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

Smith said: “We’ve got a political class in Scotland cheerleading divestment and insecurity in our energy sector at a time of geopolitical tension and a cost-of-living crisis. Energy workers know without an industrial plan for a jobs transition on the road to net zero, their future will be displacement at best and, at worst, unemployment.”

It is unclear whether the Cambo project can go ahead without Shell. The oil major, which has a 30 per cent stake, was, in effect, providing the technical support for private equity backed Siccar Point, which owns the remaining 70 per cent of the field.

Publicity surrounding the project means it is unlikely that other oil majors will step in . Siccar Point chief executive Jonathan Roger said he was in discussions with contractors “to review options”.

The Scottish government, said: “We have said unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations. Our focus must now be on achieving the fastest possible transition for the oil and gas sector.”
8) Alex Brummer: Cost to UK of Shell's decision to pull out of the Cambo oil and gas development will be huge 
Daily Mail, 4 December 2021
The cost to British business and consumers of Shell's decision to pull out of the Cambo oil and gas development off the Shetlands could be enormous.
Not only will it contribute to surging energy bills and higher inflation (already forecast to rise at 5 per cent in 2022), it will mean the UK has to import more oil from countries where supplies are insecure.
Royal Dutch Shell may be able to claim the high ground in the battle to become a greener company. But it is engaged in a piece of virtue signalling which is likely to do little to reduce Britain's or the world's carbon emissions.

Under UK government-sanctioned plans to exploit the field, Shell had planned to take a 30 per cent stake in the Cambo project. 

The presence of Shell, as a cornerstone investor, was seen as essential in ensuring that the drillings and development were carried out to the highest safety and carbon-emission standards.
The British oil company's withdrawal comes in the face of the threat of legal action from Greenpeace, a lack of support from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and pressure from big battalion shareholders who have hardened their stance on climate change.

It is still possible that another explorer will seek to replace Shell in the project. 

But with the political and environmental hurdles set so high by opponents to the domestic production of fossil fuels, it would take a brave investor to combat the naysayers.
All the evidence from this autumn's energy crisis, which saw gas and power bills soar amid supply bottlenecks around the world, suggests it is far too soon for Britain to place all its bets on renewable energy.
Almost every single British nuclear power plant – and nuclear is currently the energy source for around 20 per cent of our electricity – is close to the end of its life.

This leaves the UK dangerously dependent on the wind blowing, the sun shining – and on imported oil and gas.
As was seen in September and October, these overseas supplies can be hopelessly unreliable. 
With a global shortage, oil and natural gas tankers heading for the UK were diverted to China and the Pacific because governments there were willing to pay a higher price.
Meanwhile, gas supplies routed through continental Europe by the state-owned Russian firm Gazprom were offloaded before they reached pipelines to Britain.
And in addition, a fire on the interconnector to France hit power supplies. 
This series of events underlined how important it is for the UK – which is still surrounded by rich oil and gas fields and sits on potentially unlimited sources of gas for fracking – to make use of these energy resources until newer fuel technologies such as green hydrogen, fuel cells and carbon capture can be brought to fruition.
Shell's departure from the Cambo field will be seen as a huge victory for the green lobby. 
Paradoxically, it will do nothing to reduce the nation's carbon footprint. Instead of our own fuel being produced on the country's doorstep, the oil will instead be transported from Nigeria, the Middle East and other far-off places.
The transport alone will increase the carbon footprint globally. 
Nothing will have been done to lower the UK's energy consumption at all and Britain's balance of payments with the rest of the world will be hurt.
9) European auto suppliers warn shift to electric would put 500,000 jobs at risk
Financial Times, 6 December 2021
EU plan to ban combustion-engine cars by 2035 could cause mass unemployment, say companies

Half a million jobs would be at risk under EU plans to effectively ban combustion-engine cars by 2035, according to European auto suppliers, the latest in a series of stark warnings about the costs of a rapid transition to emissions-free technology.

More than two-thirds of those 501,000 roles would disappear in the five years before that date, according to a poll of almost 100 companies for the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, Clepa, making it difficult to mitigate the “social and economic impacts” caused by mass unemployment.

But the survey by PwC also found that 226,000 new jobs would be created in the manufacturing of electric parts, reducing the net number of job losses to approximately 275,000 over the next couple of decades.

The European Commission announced its intention earlier this year to eliminate 100 per cent of CO2 emissions from new cars by 2035. The policy effectively bans the sale of fossil-fuel powered vehicles after that date.

While the commission did not order that these be replaced by battery-powered cars, automakers such as VW, the continent’s largest, have all but ruled out other technologies, such as hydrogen.

Clepa, which represents more than 3,000 automotive suppliers, has long argued that the use of interim technologies would cushion the blow of the transition to cleaner transport.

“Society’s needs are far too diverse for a one-fits-all approach,” said the organisation’s secretary-general, Sigrid de Vries. “The use of hybrid technologies, green hydrogen and renewable sustainable fuels will enable innovation as we redefine mobility in the coming decades.”

Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis, told a Reuters conference on Wednesday that the speed of the transition to electric cars was “putting the industry on the limits”, adding that the costs of developing the new technology could lead to heavy job losses.

His warning followed a similar claim from Germany’s largest listed car parts supplier, Continental, which cautioned that “social harmony would be jeopardised” if climate policies were not accompanied by programmes to create new employment opportunities for those working in fossil fuel-reliant industries.

“We can transform, but we cannot have any discontinuity,” said Ariane Reinhart, a board member for human relations and Sustainability at the Hanover-based company. “Creating the necessary conditions for climate protection means not only accelerating the transformation, but also preventing large-scale unemployment,” she added.

Last year, a government-sanctioned report warned that approximately 400,000 jobs could be lost in Germany due to the shift away from combustion engines.

But Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said such apocalyptic scenarios had “probably been a bit overstated”. 

“A lot of the car remains the same,” he added. “It’s still seats, paint, body work, interiors, wheels, axles.

“For some, if you work in fuel injection systems or gearboxes, it’s probably a bigger transition. I would say for 70 to 80 per cent of the automotive supply industry, there is no transition”
10) Francis Menton: Fossil fuel restriction dam starting to break
Manhattan Contrarian, 4 December 2021
Predicting the date when the Europeans will wake up to their ridiculous energy folly is a lot like predicting the date of the demise of the regimes in North Korea or Venezuela. 

Somewhere a couple of decades or so ago, the rich parts of the world embarked on a program of replacing energy from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) with energy from intermittent “renewables” (mainly wind and solar). In trendy academic, journalistic, and otherwise progressive circles, the idea took hold that this was the way to “save the planet.” This program was undertaken without any detailed engineering study of how or whether it might actually work, or how much it might cost to fully implement. In the trendy circles, there took hold a blind faith in the complete ability of the government, by dispensing taxpayer funds, to order up whatever innovation might be needed to move us forward to this energy utopia.
The latest UN-orchestrated effort to implement the renewable energy program, known as COP 26, has just broken up. To read the verbiage emanating from the affair, all is on track, if a bit slower than one might have hoped.

But I have long predicted that this program would come to an end when (absent some miraculous innovation that nobody has yet conceived) the usage of the renewables got to a sufficient level that their costs and unworkability could not be covered up any longer. Until very recently the pressure of elite groupthink has been able to maintain a united front of lip service to the cause. But consider a few developments from the past few weeks, just since the end of COP 26:

Japan tends to keep its head down in international affairs, and at COP 26 signed on to the happy talk group communiqués without raising any particular issues. But there is no getting around that Japan has the third largest economy in the world — after the U.S. and China, and larger than any European country — so its actions in energy policy are inherently significant. Also, Japan has relatively little energy production of its own, is heavily dependent on imports, has harsh winters, and has a growing Chinese military and economic threat right on its doorstep. Is Japan really going to trust its fate to intermittent wind and solar energy?

On December 1 Bloomberg reported: “Japan Is Backing Oil and Gas Even After COP26 Climate Talks.” It seems that this rather significant country may be seriously re-thinking the move away from fossil fuels. Excerpt:

"Government officials have been quietly urging trading houses, refiners and utilities to slow down their move away from fossil fuels, and even encouraging new investments in oil-and-gas projects, according to people within the Japanese government and industry, who requested anonymity as the talks are private."

What is motivating Japan to break from the world groupthink? According to the Bloomberg piece, the main motivator is security of energy supply — which wind and solar obviously cannot provide:

"The officials are concerned about the long-term supply of traditional fuels as the world doubles down on renewable energy, the people said. The import-dependent nation wants to avoid a potential shortage of fuel this winter, as well as during future cold spells, after a deficit last year sparked fears of nationwide blackouts. . . . Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry declined to comment directly on whether it is encouraging industries to boost investment in upstream energy supply, and instead pointed to a strategic energy plan approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet on October 22. That plan says “no compromise is acceptable to ensure energy security, and it is the obligation of a nation to continue securing necessary resources.”

(Emphasis added.). Well, if “no compromise is acceptable” on “energy security,” that pretty much rules out principal reliance on wind and solar for powering the Japanese economy, at least until some magical new inventions come along.

United States
In the U.S., Republicans have only very gradually caught on to the idea that fossil fuel restrictions in the name of “climate” are becoming a political liability for the Democrats. Up to now, there have been some politicians willing to speak out in opposition to such restrictions, but little in the way of concrete steps taken in opposition. Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to move forward with initiatives at the SEC, Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to pressure banks and other financial institutions to reduce their participation in the fossil fuel industries.

So this is a big development: On November 22, a coalition of state treasurers sent a letter to large financial institutions threatening to end relationships, including the deposit of state and pension funds, with institutions that cut off financing for the coal, oil and natural gas industries. National Review reports in a November 22 piece headlined “Fifteen States Respond to ‘Woke Capitalism,’ Threaten to Cut Off Banks That Refuse to Service Coal, Oil Industries.” Excerpt:

"A coalition of financial officers from 15 states sent a letter to the U.S. banking industry on Monday warning they plan to take “collective action” against banks that adopt corporate policies to cut off financing for the coal, oil, and natural gas industries. . . . The letter puts the financial institutions that have “adopted policies aimed at diminishing a large portion of our states’ revenue” on notice, saying the banks have “a major conflict of interest against holding, maintaining, or managing those funds.”

According to the NR piece, the state treasurers signing on to the letter include those from West Virginia, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Alabama, Texas and Kentucky. Recipients of the letter included JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the states’ own accounts and their pension funds, the amounts at issue would be well into the multiple hundreds of billions of dollars, if not approaching a trillion.

Meanwhile, over in Europe . . .
Another Bloomberg piece, this one from November 28, describes the sense of impending doom hanging over Europe with the combination of low natural gas supplies, price spikes, and complete inability to coax more production out of proliferating and essentially useless wind and solar generators. The headline is “Europe’s energy crisis is about to get worse as winter arrives.”
"The situation is already so dire this early in the winter season because of a blistering rally in natural gas prices. Stores of the fuel, used to heat homes and to generate electricity, are lower than usual and are being depleted quickly. Analysts have warned that gas stores could drop to zero this winter if cold weather boosts demand. Rolling blackouts are a possibility, warned Jeremy Weir, chief executive officer of Trafigura Group, a Swiss commodity trading house on Nov. 16."

And then there’s this comment:

“If the weather gets cold in Europe there’s not going to be an easy supply solution, it’s going to need a demand solution,” said Adam Lewis, partner at trading house Hartree Partners LP."
I think that a “demand solution” means some combination of either blackouts or intentionally cutting people off and, I guess, leaving them to freeze. The “supply solution” mentioned by Lewis would be allowing fracking in the extensive shale formations underlying Western Europe.
Such fracking is currently banned. Even if those bans were lifted today, it would be way too late for this winter.

Predicting the date when the Europeans will wake up to their ridiculous energy folly is a lot like predicting the date of the demise of the regimes in North Korea or Venezuela. You know that it has to happen eventually, but this can go on for a long time. But enough blackouts and heat cutoffs could turn things around fairly quickly.
11) Recent European droughts are not unprecedented, new study finds
Net Zero Watch, 1 December 2021

Dr David Whitehouse, Science editor

A new study concludes that when placed into a long-term context recent drought events in Europe are within the range of natural variability and are not unprecedented over the last millennium.
The 2003 European heatwave and drought has a special place in the history of the study of our changing climate. It was the first event that scientists attributed to human-induced climate change. A paper by Stott et al published in Nature concluded, “Human influence has at least doubled the risk of a regional heatwave like the European Summer of 2003.” This was later strengthened and the event was said to be directly caused by humans.

Alongside the increasing attribution of such events to human-influence has been the assertion that the incidence of droughts is on the rise, along with their human toll. Looking back at 2004 Peter Stott of the UK Met Office has written that at that time “heatwaves, floods and droughts were on the rise.

This was a view that was at odds with the science, in 2004 and for many years afterwards. In 2013 the IPCC AR5 report said there was low confidence that droughts had increased. But by AR6, just eight years later, the situation had changed. AR6 said that there was now medium confidence that droughts had increased, but then it goes on to say, “there is low confidence that human influence has affected meteorological droughts in most regions but medium confidence that they have contributed to the severity of some specific events. It add that there is medium confidence that human-induced climate change has contributed to increasing trends in the probability or intensity of recent agricultural and ecological droughts.” So, AR6 has a set of contradictory stances.

Some, however, exhibit no such equivocation. In the epilogue to his book “Hot Air,” Peter Stott says, “The global toll from floods, droughts and heatwaves continues to rise at a startling rate, their increasing intensity attributable, our research shows, to human-induced climate change.”

Europe in the 21st Century has experienced a series of long-lasting dry and hot summers. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was also considered the culprit behind a heatwave and drought in Russia in 2010, and again in Europe in 2013, 2015 and 2018. There is no doubt, according to a group of scientists studying the attribution of such weather events to AGW, that they are unusual enough to have been the specific result of AGW. The website Carbon Brief labelled recent droughts as unprecedented.

But are they? Writing in the journal Nature Monica Ionita from the Alfred Wegner Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany. Along with colleagues from the Faculty of Physics, Bucharest University, the Faculty of Forestry, Ștefan cel Mare University, Suceava, Romania, and Bremen University ask if the data is really good enough to determine if these recent events are all that unusual. They use several independent datasets, observations, paleo data reanalysis, historical evidence and climate/weather proxies, to gather a picture of changes over the past thousand years or so.


Droughts in the past thousand years.
They find that between 1901 -2012 the driest years in Europe were 1921 and 1976 and in the past thousand years they were 1102, 1503, 1865 and 1921. During the past millennium there were two mega-droughts in Central Europe, in 1400-1480 and 1770-1840.

They conclude that when placed into a long-term context recent drought events are within the range of natural variability and they are not unprecedented over the last millennium. Their conclusion that recent drought events are nothing unusual stands on its own, the researchers however go further and consider their climatic influences.
They note that the two mega-droughts appear to be linked with a cold state of the North Atlantic Ocean and increased frontal blocking activity over the British Isles and the western part of Europe. They also note that they are also coincident with the Sporer and Dalton minima of solar activity.

The researchers add that future climate projections indicate that Europe will face substantial drying, even for the least aggressive emission pathways scenarios. They say that although the greenhouse gases and their associate global warming will contribute to future drought risk their study indicates that future drought variations will also be strongly influenced by natural variations.
In particular a possible decrease in total solar irradiance over the next few decades and its concomitant effects on the earth could result in a higher frequency of drought events in central Europe, which could add to the drying induced by AGW. They recommend further work on how the combined effect of natural and anthropogenic factors will shape the drought magnitude and frequency.

The conclusions of this research should be considered alongside claims about droughts made by some scientists involved in climate attribution studies. Some will dismiss it as being “just one paper,” but that would be unscientific. Perhaps we don’t appreciate just how variable climate is or consider too short a timescale when deciding that heatwaves, floods and droughts are on the rise?

There are statistical and philosophical questions surrounding the process of climate attribution. How does one assess what would have happened in the absence of rising greenhouse gas influence? How does one compare our planet today, with a hypothetical planet B? It’s an approach enthusiastically supported by some but not by everyone.
At the recent GWPF annual lecture Professor Steven Koonin of New York University said climate attribution studies were the scientific equivalent of being told you had won the lottery, after you had won the lottery.
12) Joel Kotkin: The great nudge
Spiked, 2 December 2021
Government, Big Tech and the media are all trying to nudge us into adopting the ‘right’ behaviour.

When we think of oppressive regimes, we immediately think of the Stalinist model portrayed in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the heavy-handed thought control associated with Hitler’s Reich or Mao’s China. But where the old propaganda was loud, crude and often lethal, the contemporary style of thought control takes the form of a gentle nudging towards orthodoxy – a gentle push that gradually closes off one’s critical faculties and leads one to comply with gently given directives. Governments around the world, including in the UK, notes the Guardian, have been embracing this approach with growing enthusiasm.

Nudging grew out of research into behavioural economics, and was popularised in Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s 2008 book, Nudge. It now has widespread public support and has influenced everything from health warnings for cigarettes to calorie counts for fast food. Yet nudging also has an authoritarian edge, employing techniques and technologies that the Gestapo or NKVD could only dream about to promote the ‘right behaviour’.

Tech firms, both in the US and China, already use messaging nudges to ‘control behaviours’. They use their power to purge their platforms of the wrong messages, as both Facebook and Twitter did when they censored the New York Post’s pre-election story about President Biden’s dissolute son, Hunter. Meanwhile, these same firms blocked the account of Donald Trump, Biden’s admittedly awful predecessor, on the grounds that he was fostering ‘violence’ – and they did so while tolerating open calls for mayhem and killing from leftists and foreign governments.

Free speech is clearly not a high priority in Silicon Valley. ‘Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment’, Twitter’s new head Parag Agrawal said in a November 2020 interview. ‘Our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation. The kinds of things that we do about this is, focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.’
Sadly, the ability of Agrawal and other oligarchs to shape opinion may only be in its infancy. Nearly half of US adults now get their news through Facebook or Google and for young people social media are even more important. Millennials in both the United States and the UK are almost three times as likely to get their information from these platforms as they are from print, television or radio.

This situation is made worse because the people running our most powerful institutions, from the media to the government, increasingly share the same opinions and often have little tolerance for outliers. Their views on dissent and freedom of speech do not stem from Jefferson or Madison. If the Biden administration tried to impose ‘a Ministry for Truth’ to enforce ideological unanimity, as one writer suggests, the tech firms, the media and most large cultural institutions would likely ask, ‘Where do we sign?’
The nudgers focus on three areas: identity (ie, race / gender), the pandemic, and, most critically, climate. In terms of race issues, they rule out scepticism towards Black Lives Matter, including criticism of last year’s ‘mostly peaceful’ BLM demonstrations, which featured looting, arson and general mayhem. Many media outlets will also characterise anyone who does not embrace the new ‘anti-racist’ orthodoxy as a ‘white nationalist’.
To avoid undue confusion, racial violence carried out by non-whites, say, on Jews or Asians, is generally downplayed. The media also increasingly avoid reporting crime committed by ‘people of colour’, such as the recent Wisconsin mass killing, allegedly committed by an violent African-American career criminal, who embraced both black nationalism and anti-Semitism. They can’t do it, since it interferes with the preferred narrative.

On the gender front, things may be even worse. To be sceptical about assaults on traditional definitions of male and female is to find oneself excluded from publishers, book stores and Amazon. Even suggesting that female sports will soon be dominated by ‘trans males’ – something brought up by liberal feminists like JK Rowling – leads to cancellation and excommunication from the progressive tribe.

The pandemic has rained manna for nudgers. Across the high-income world, we now see a form of hygiene authoritarianism, promoted and enforced by nudgers in government and media. This goes beyond debunking clearly unhinged and unsupported claims. It also includes purging anyone opposed to particular government Covid policies, including recognised professionals. The most egregious example was the cancelling and marginalisation of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, written by leading epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford – all for the ‘thoughtcrime’ of opposing lockdowns.

Much the same can be said about the discussion of the pandemic’s origins, notes Jonathan Chait, a left-of-centre writer for New York magazine. For months anyone mentioning the possibility that Covid escaped from a Chinese lab was denounced as racist and sent to the digital gulag. Only recently, as the case for it became credible, has the lab-leak theory been deemed acceptable.

But reversing positions does not bother the nudgers, who, like apparatchiks under Stalin or bishops of the medieval church, follow each shift of policy assiduously. This has led to a dizzying confusion as health officials switch official positions on the duration and severity of the disease, and on the usefulness of masks, while their projections on infections, deaths and hospitalisations have often been too high. Anyone who dares to dissent, for example, from the views of US chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci is cast as an antediluvian ignoramus. ‘They’re really criticising science because I represent science’, Fauci said recently of those questioning him. ‘That’s dangerous.’

What really is ‘dangerous’ is Fauci’s insistence that he speaks for science. This mindset dominates discussion about climate. Historically, environmentalists struggled for causes the public supported, like clean air and water, or saving the oceans and preserving wildlife. But the current climate agenda is a tougher sell as it means lower living standards across the world.

In order to get people to sign up to this agenda, the nudgers need to suggest that only draconian steps can prevent the end of the planet. The fact that predictions have been frequently off and exaggerated does not matter. As long-time climate activist and former US senator Tim Wirth put it: ‘Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.’

Today, if you challenge climate policy, you are likely to join the digital gulag, an intellectual imprisonment encouraged by journalists who see themselves as active partisan shapers, as opposed to reporters, of events. Such treatment has been meted out to economist Bjorn Lomborg, environmental activist Michael Shellenberger and physicist and former Obama adviser Steven E Koonin. These are not ‘deniers’, but serious researchers who feel many environmental claims are vastly exaggerated, and see current climate policies as ineffective and socially destructive.
Some environmentalists even see national lockdowns as a ‘test run’ for the kind of highly managed, centrally controlled society they consider necessary to tackle climate change. ‘Democracy is the planet’s biggest enemy’, asserted an article in Foreign Policy in 2019.

No wonder so many nudgers see China as an ideal, a place without a nasty First Amendment that protects dissenters. Oligarchs, such as Bill Gates, also apparently endorse China’s authoritarian approach to Covid and other issues. The Chinese government’s efforts to monitor thoughts and regulate opinion, sometimes assisted by US tech firms, could prove a harbinger of things to come in Europe, Australia and North America.

In one sense the nudgers are right – unless sufficiently terrified, most people will never agree to their own immiseration, reject the idea of two main sexes, or embrace an ‘anti-racism’ that suggests all whites are intrinsically oppressors. These can only be imposed by undemocratic means forced on the public by those people occupying ‘the commanding heights’ in government, business and media.

Sadly, the notion of media cooperating with government to nudge the public – for example Sky’s collaboration with the Behavioural Insight Team, a one-time UK government body – has been gaining ground. Rather than something to avoid, some, particularly in our academic establishment, would rather the media convey orthodoxy on issues of race, Covid or climate than enjoy traditional Western press freedoms. Writing in the Atlantic, two law professors even suggested that in the ‘debate over freedom or control’, China ‘was largely correct and the US was wrong’.

This same censorious spirit is already being embraced by some of the internet’s moguls – Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube. All monitor and censor comments on climate, race, gender or the pandemic that do not fit their worldview. Companies like Meta, the Facebook offspring, embrace a regulatory vision that could make it difficult for competitors, and will help to secure their dominance of the nudging universe.

Nudging, notes one Singapore-based publication, looks to make ‘a happy citizen’, but that also comes with the proviso that happiness results from following the right digital signals. There’s something very Brave New World about this rule by ‘a scientific caste system’, as Aldous Huxley put it (1). The problem, as Huxley observed, ‘is that scientists and other experts do not own a monopoly on either virtue or political wisdom’ (2).
But the nudgers may not have the last word. There are clearly signs of a pushback, as people’s faith in the media continues to wane, particularly in the United States, and trust in tech companies crumbles. People who are fine with warning labels on cigarettes or calorie counts at McDonald’s may not be quite so keen on threats to their core values.

In the end, our best weapons against the nudgers lie away from the screen. By drawing on our personal experiences, families, communities, religious institutions, union halls and social clubs, we can resist the authoritarian values that many people, liberal and conservative, find bizarre and often objectionable. The nudgers are not as crude as Orwell’s Big Brother, but their goading may prove similarly oppressive.

Joel Kotkin is a spiked columnist, the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His latest book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, is out now. Follow him on Twitter: @joelkotkin

(1) Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, by Aldous Huxley, Harper Classics, 2004, p237
(2) Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, by Aldous Huxley, Harper Classics, 2004, p260

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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