Nord Stream Blasts Point to Coal and Oil as European Solution

by Vijay Jayaraj

The apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines designed to carry Russian natural gas to western Europe is but the latest blow to the energy security of millions of the continent’s citizens. Europeans already were facing a cold winter as a result of “green energy” polices that denied them the sensible use of coal and oil.

Explosions that damaged Nord Stream made global headlines with images of gas effervescence in the Baltic Sea going viral on social media. According to the journal DW, “The Danish and Swedish prime ministers said an assessment by authorities indicated that the (explosions) were not accidental.”

Speaking to DW, the Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) director said that they had detected two blasts in their seismograph with one “very close to the location where the Swedish Maritime Administration tells us that the gas is leaking out of the pipeline.”

It is too early to say who blew up the pipelines and how various parties might respond. Media houses from different parts of the world have adopted various narratives about the incident. In any case, most media attention has been on politics and the power play between Russia and the West. Many ignore the issue of European energy security and the factors undermining it.

Even when the pipelines are repaired and geopolitical tensions subside, uncertainty about Europe’s energy security will remain. This is because of the obsession of political leaders to replace coal and oil with “greener” energy.

Before the widespread use of gas that we see in Europe today, coal was an important source of electricity. Coal plants ensured reliable and affordable electricity to millions of European households and businesses.

However, gross available energy from coal dropped from 16,032 petajoules in 1990 to only 5,874 petajoules in 2020, while the energy from so-called renewable energy sources increased five times in the same period. Fossil fuels’ share of gross available energy in EU decreased by 10.9 percentage points between 1990 and 2019.

This means that the EU gradually transitioned from having a reliable energy sector to one that is unreliable and expensive. Wind and solar are inherently intermittent, and natural gas, as evidenced by the Nord Stream experience, can be quite vulnerable to interruptions. As a result, Germany, France, and the UK – some of the strongest economies in Western Europe — are all beset by high energy prices. So, Europeans suffer not just because of import volatility due to foreign conflicts but also because of their own leaders’ domestic war against fossil fuels.

Commenting on Europe’s rush to phase out coal, South African Mineral Resources and Energy Minister said, “The excitement of moving from coal to renewables is becoming a myth…. Many think that renewables are the so-called savior, and we know that (they are) not. Germany has learnt that painfully.”

Author and fossil-fuel advocate Alex Epstein says, “We know how to produce energy on a scale of billions of people. We are just being prohibited from doing it politically, which means that there is a political solution if we are liberated to be able to do it.”

The political solution is to give Europeans access to electricity produced from coal and to transportation supported by oil. The way to European energy independence is straightforward, but is there the political will to embrace it?

This commentary was first published at Real Clear Energy, October 5, 2022, and can be accessed here.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a masters degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK, and resides in India.

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