Renewables: Is There Anything They Can't Do?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Natural gas and electricity markets were already surging in Europe when a fresh catalyst emerged: The wind in the stormy North Sea stopped blowing. The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind. Natural-gas prices, already boosted by the pandemic recovery and a lack of fuel in storage caverns and tanks, hit all-time highs. Thermal coal, long shunned for its carbon emissions, has emerged from a long price slump as utilities are forced to turn on backup power sources.

The episode underscored the precarious state the region’s energy markets face heading into the long European winter. The electricity price shock was most acute in the U.K., which has leaned on wind farms to eradicate net carbon emissions by 2050. Prices for carbon credits, which electricity producers need to burn fossil fuels, are at records, too... At their peak, U.K. electricity prices had more than doubled in September and were almost seven times as high as at the same point in 2020. Power markets also jumped in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

So the transition to so-called renewable energy has really been raking European energy markets over the coals. Literally, in fact, as coal-fired power plants are having to increase production to meet energy demands. And it's making Russia into a one nation OPEC, the only country in the region with an excess of natural gas which will happily export it.... for some significant diplomatic concessions.

Quite the bind the E.U. finds itself in. Perhaps they might consider changing course, accepting that shutting down their natural gas and nuclear power plants, not to mention banning fracking, is a mistake?

Doesn't sound like it! Reuters --

Record high power prices in European Union countries show the bloc must wean itself off fossil fuels and speed up the transition to green energy, the EU's top climate change official said on Tuesday.

That official -- first vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who has appeared in these pages before, always singing the same one-note tune -- argues that, in fact, it is because they haven't transitioned quickly enough that things are so bad! "Had we had the Green Deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependence on fossil fuels and on natural gas," he said.

Never mind that the transition itself helped create the shortage by causing a shortage of the fuels that, for the foreseeable future, the continent continues to run on. That, and the fact that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun sometimes fails to shine.

Anyway, you heard it from Frans first -- renewable energy causes problems that can only be solved by... more renewable energy. Is there anything it can't do?

Sauron: Coronavirus Shows Need to Focus on 'Climate Change'

Have you by any chance heard about this whole global pandemic thing? COVID-19, coronavirus, the WuFlu, or whatever you want to call it? If not, well, you've likely been living under a rock. The topic is harder to avoid -- by far -- than actually getting the virus. It's all the media are talking about. So I can sympathize with the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, for using it as a gateway for something he'd much rather be focusing on: the so-called "Climate Emergency" and the legislation he's had a part in crafting to deal with it.

Known as the European Green Deal, the legislation promises to transform Europe's economy, enshrining in law that every EU member nation reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, mandating that a substantial portion of every budget category be dedicated to reaching that goal (for instance, "40% of the budget for the common agricultural policy and 30% of fisheries"), and imposing heavy fines on those nations not on track. Which, as Patrick Michaels of the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out, is insane:

Suppose bankrupt Greece isn’t reducing its emissions fast enough to meet the 2050 goal. Then the EU will throw “hefty” fines at it. Because Greece won’t be able to pay — being bankrupt, you know — the rest of the EU (read: Germany) effectively will have to pay. The proposed law is, therefore, a recipe for disaster that will increasingly rely on Germany to rescue other EU nations.

Still, this pesky global pandemic is getting in Timmermanns' way. People are even suggesting -- talk about an extreme reaction! -- that perhaps the virus running amok throughout continental Europe should be a priority for the the EU Commission. Nonsense, says Timmermans:

“The focus this week should be completely on the happening in Syria, in Turkey and what is happening in Greece, should be on containing the coronavirus and solving it. That’s absolutely a priority,” he said. [But] the climate law was “so important”, because “it allows you to focus on other things without losing track of what you need to do to reach climate neutrality”.

“Even if the Eye of Sauron is on something else for a bit, the trajectory to 2050 will be clear,” he said, in a reference to the dark forces in the Lord of the Rings. “Because we discipline ourselves with the climate law.”

Which is to say, we need to pass the European Green Deal precisely so that we can focus on other things! The Climate Emergency is always the priority! If we turned our "Eye of Sauron" (weird and telling that he uses that reference to describe the EU, by the way) towards those thousands of sick Italians and Spaniards even for one moment, I mean, what would Greta say? Unfortunately for Timmermans, Greta has already called his bill a "surrender."

Rough day for Sauron.