Biden's Bottomless Energy Foolishness

President Joe Biden followed up his War on Energy—which began the day he took office with his abrupt and malicious cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline— with a direct threat wrapped in the flag on Wednesday, demanding in a letter to oil industry CEOs that they increase production while complaining about their profit margins: “There is no question Vladimir Putin is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing. But at a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto Americans are unacceptable.”

His verbally-challenged press spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre followed up with a vague threats that Biden might invoke the Defense Production Act or some other executive powers if the oil industry doesn’t “voluntarily” comply. The fate of President Harry Truman’s seizure of the steel industry in 1952 (declared unconstitutional by a pro-New Deal Supreme Court) must have fallen out of the Biden White House history books, along with any reference works on economic literacy. The facts are these:

It is impossible to exaggerate the ignorance and hubris—and greed—of the Biden leftists about energy. The Financial Times reported a startling detail a few days ago: “When the White House started calling around in a panic, they thought shale oil production could grow sharply in the near term — like in a matter of months or quarters,” said Bob McNally, head of consultancy Rapidan Energy. “They were shocked to learn that that’s like asking for blood from a stone. It’s almost impossible.”

But it's easy to be shocked when you’ve lost your grip on reality. A CEO of a major American transportation company who agreed to serve on Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness back in 2011 once privately told me that he asked Obama why we didn’t encourage more domestic production of oil and natural gas. Obama’s answer stunned him: “Stephen Chu [the Nobel Prize-winning Secretary of Energy] tells me we’ll be well on our way to a transition to renewable energy by 2016, so we don’t need more oil and gas.”

"I did that!"

President Biden seems even more self-deluded about oil and gas than Obama, peddling the same dreamy nonsense about energy. Last month Biden said that high gasoline prices were part of the “incredible transition” toward a world of “renewable” energy that won’t need fossil fuels. But the inexorable rise of gasoline prices has set off political alarms in the White House, prompting the administration to try to make nice with domestic oil and gas—and even with the Saudis, otherwise a pariah state for this administration—in hopes they will increase oil production and relieve Biden’s political gas pains.

But Biden’s grasp of the oil and gas industry is as simplistic and confused as every other aspect of his doddering administration. Having demonized the oil and gas industry as required by environmentalist orthodoxy, Biden now thinks he can get the industry to bail him out of his self-induced political and economic crisis.

There are two primary reasons why domestic oil and gas can’t be turned on or off like a water faucet in your kitchen. The first is long-wave oil market cycles. The second is political and regulatory risk. The oil and gas industry has at length figured out how to adapt to the first problem. The second problem—political and regulatory risk—is out of their hands, and is the one thing Biden and his gang refuse to acknowledge or consider changing.

There’s an old adage that the solution to high oil prices is high oil prices (and vice versa), and ever since the first oil shocks of the 1970s we’ve seen several epicycles of world oil markets in which the price soars, slowly collapses, and then slowly soars again, drawing oil entrepreneurs into the market with some inevitable bankruptcies among the weaker firms later on. We saw this cycle with a vengeance over the last decade, as rising oil prices in the “oughts” (2000-2009 or so) combined with technology leaps to produce America’s wonderful domestic oil and gas boom.

Opening new or expanding existing resources requires considerable up-front capital investment. Both the industry and its investors have become more disciplined over the last decade to avoid the boom-and-bust cycle, and it is now largely oriented to developing oil and gas assets that can remain profitable at any reasonable price point in a typical epicycle, instead of chasing after large profits during price spikes.

A bigger problem for the industry is political risk. After years of open hostility to the industry from Democrats, why would the industry now put its neck on the line to rush new production when it is certain that Democrats will resume their old hostility to the industry once prices and profits start to come back down? In the 2020 campaign Biden said he’d halt further oil and gas production on public land, while encouraging Wall Street to cut off capital to the industry. He’s more than made good on that promise—until just the last few weeks—and the increasingly woke capitalists on Wall Street were happy to go along. (In a nod to reality, several of the big Wall Street banks have recently reversed their position and say they will now provide financing for fossil fuel companies.)

If Biden wanted to secure a robust and consistent supply of domestic hydrocarbons that his own Energy Department says we will need to use for decades to come, he’d call off the left’s political war on the sector. But fossil fuels are the primary Emmanuel Goldstein of the left, a main target of their daily two minutes of hate.

Beneath these endless confusions and contradictions is the cognitive dissonance of Biden’s variety of leftism. Over the years the left has considered high gasoline prices the acme of enlightenment, because it would force people to switch to “renewable” energy and electric cars. A whole volume of the Encyclopedia of Leftist Errors could be filled with statements of envy over Europe’s tax-driven high fuel prices, along with the open wish that we should follow their example. The aforementioned Stephen Chu said during the Obama years, “somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

And yet when market conditions deliver price spikes, as happens on a regular basis, Democrats explode: Price gouging! Collusion! Greedy oil companies! We must investigate! Every government investigation of high gas prices since the 1970s has failed to find any evidence of price fixing or collusion in the oil industry, because there isn’t any. The lesson here is plain: for the left, high gasoline prices are only good when it comes about through a government tax rather than market forces. Actually the U.S. government already makes more on each gallon of gas than oil companies and refiners do, but you never hear that inconvenient fact reported, because apparently the government can never be “greedy.”

The dramatic revolution in domestic oil and gas production that began about 15 years ago falsified two of liberalism’s most persistent clichés—that we had reached “peak oil,” and that the U.S. couldn’t “drill our way” to energy independence. One politician who quietly figured this out a decade ago was Barack Obama. By degrees during his second term, Obama started endorsing an “all of the above” energy policy, which represented a de facto truce with domestic oil and gas. It is telling that Biden can’t even bring himself to say “all of the above,” and this silence is all the industry needs to know as it weighs the enduring problem of political risk so long as the left is in power.

Seven-Dollar Gas Just Around the Corner

We've just passed Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and most Americans have already begun to map out their vacation plans for this year. After two summers lost to the Wuhan coronavirus there seems to be a widespread desire to make up for lost time by packing the kids into the car and heading out for an adventure.

Unfortunately, the price of gasoline figures to take up a significantly larger chunk of the vacation budget this year. The Energy Information Administration's average gas price tracker has been helpfully demonstrating the fact that, with more-or-less every update, we set a new record for prices at the pump. That record for the week ending on May 30th is $4.727 per gallon, with prices in some places in California topping the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour according to CBS News. These are almost unimaginable sums considering the fact that the price was $2.464 when Joe Biden took office.

And it's going to get worse. Fuel price analyst Patrick De Haan predicts that the price of gas will hit $5 per gall by June 17th. JPMorgan analyst Natasha Kaneva predicts that we will be paying $6.20 nationally by August. Both of those projections came out before the announcement that the European Union would ban Russian oil and gas imports by the end of 2022, which led to a significant increase in the per-barrel price of oil. Which is to say, those might be underestimates. We could be close to $6 per gallon by the Fourth of July. Maybe by Labor Day we'll be nearing $7.

Speaking of Russia, Ed Morrisey deftly counters the ridiculous White House spin that this is a crisis of Putin's making, saying "Gas prices have escalated by 91% under Joe Biden … so far. They went up 43% before Vladimir Putin began positioning troops around Ukraine, in fact." Had Biden not declared war on the oil and gas industry right out of the gate, we would have been better able to absorb Putin's blow to oil markets. Indeed, we would have been well positioned to step into the role of Europe's preferred energy supplier, likely bringing about a Russian energy embargo much sooner and possibly preventing the war from dragging on as long as it has.

Luckily Biden's attempt to pass the buck doesn't seem to be fooling anyone--  a new poll by the Trafalgar Group found that 60 percent of Americans believe Biden's policies are primarily to blame for our current economic woes. That bodes well for the midterm elections and, if it holds, for the elections in 2024.

Maybe those will lead to the types of policy changes that will turn this crisis around. Unfortunately they won't happen soon enough to keep gas prices from ruining our summer.

There's No Green Way of War

When last heard from, I was pointing out that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, though undoubtedly a monstrous crime by every decent standard, had produced one worthwhile consequence. It had forced the political leaders of the Western world to be much more realistic about their policies on energy. The first expression of this realism was the strategic decision of several European countries, above all Germany, to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

There’s been more talk than action on this front since February 24, with commitments followed by qualifications, but European governments now seem on the verge of agreeing upon a collective plan to substantially cut their demand for cheap Russian energy. That will have a massive impact on the world’s energy markets with innumerable secondary effects that we can only dimly foresee but which we will shortly be experiencing.

Among them, however, is that this decision will complicate even further what is the invasion’s second major consequence for energy policy—namely, it has made the legally-binding commitment by Western governments to a Net-Zero policy of reducing carbon emissions by 2050 completely unrealistic so that it will have to be substantially re-thought.

Governments aren’t good at rethinking bad policies even when they’re minor policies, and Net-Zero isn’t a minor policy. Once President Biden entered office, every government in the West had committed itself to Net-Zero policies and Boris Johnson had held a vast international conference to make that commitment as dramatic and as unsayable as possible.

In happier times: David Attenborough and Boris Johnson.

You see the problem. If you nail yourself to a sinking ship, you must learn not only how to swim but also how to remove nails from planks. That’s too embarrassing for modern Western governments to admit publicly. They want to combine—and camouflage—these two exercises with lectures on the unchangeable necessity of nails remaining in planks. Accordingly, as the priorities for energy policy change in order to resist Putin’s Russia, all the secondary policies that Net-Zero requires are trundled out to establish the falsehood that energy priorities remain unchanged and unchangeable. The result is what’s known as “cognitive dissonance” or following contradictory policies simultaneously.

Here, for instance, is a recent report from the Guardian via Yahoo News that Northern Irish farmers have been instructed to cull their herds by more than 500,000 cattle and 700,000 sheep to reduce methane emissions (from cow and sheep farts) in order to meet “legally binding climate targets” required for Net-Zero. You may have missed this news. Understandably. But you are more likely to have come across two much bigger current news stories.

The first is that Britain is fighting a major diplomatic war with the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol that imposes an internal United Kingdom customs barrier in the Irish Sea damaging to, among others, Northern Irish farmers. The second is that the British people are facing a massive “cost of living” crisis as the bills for Covid, lockdown costs, and Net-Zero regulations cascade onto the U.K. Treasury which promptly passes them onto the voters in the form of higher taxes and soaring energy bills. Both these crises will now be made worse for British people, and in particular for the farmers in Northern Ireland, by the need to abide by Net-Zero policies even though they’ve been made irrelevant by the post-Ukraine energy re-think.

The farmers will face serious loss of income, the government will be mired in a political crisis, and the hard-pressed U.K. consumer will have to pay higher prices for beef and lamb—when he or she can find them that is, since the (quietly stated) aim of the policy is to get people to eat less meat by providing less of it in supermarkets. In practice many people will reduce other purchases in order to continue eating the same amounts of meat at considerably higher prices. The cost of living crisis will be aggravated, tax revenues will fall, and market signals will be replaced by administrative commands--with the usual results. A policy of making people poorer turns out to be quite expensive—as the next news story shows in spades.

In happier times: beef on the hoof.

Britain has a National Infrastructure Commission—not many people know that—which is looking at ways to fund the change from heating homes with gas boilers to doing so with ground-based electric heat pumps. It will offer the government its advice next year, but the NIC chairman, former Whitehall mandarin Sir John Armitt, has kindly given us a preview of how its collective mind is working.

He told the Daily Telegraph that a ban on new gas boilers would have to be imposed in order to force consumers to buy heat pumps instead. In his own mellifluous words:

 Why would you move to a heat pump at somewhere between £5-£15,000 as long as you can buy or exchange for a new gas boiler for £1,500? The only way that you can make such a significant shift is by saying, well, ‘from a particular date, you will not be able to buy a new gas boiler’.

Good question—and one that the political class answered some time ago in Whitehall but that the voters are really being asked for the first time. Not unfittingly therefore Sir John replied to himself as follows:.

As long as we hold 2050 net zero targets, close to our hearts, there is going to be a tension. Because to get to that point, it’s going to require very big long-term decisions which will cost money. And then at the same time, no politician wants voters on its back because the price of energy is going up. So yes, there is a tension, which requires a very honest debate and discussion. [My italics]

The most honest response to that is that the only people in Britain who seriously hold Net-Zero targets close to their hearts are senior civil servants and the kind of radical environmentalist protesters who glue themselves to the road and obstruct traffic in preference to rational argument. Government ministers used to be in that category, but the Russo-Ukraine war is forcing them to confront the facts of life and death and of politics too.

In energy policy the facts are that the West can’t afford to sustain Ukraine in its resistance to Russia by relying either on Russian supplies of oil and gas or on renewable energy sources such as wind and sun. Both are inherently unreliable. Inevitably, therefore, we will be later in switching to renewables, using fossil fuels for longer than we had planned, and looking for new sources of fossil fuels and employing new methods such as fracking to do so.

In short we will gradually abandon—or in the softer language of bureaucracy—extend the Net-Zero targets to a later date. That being so, why do we prevent people eating what they wish and force them to spend large sums on expensive heat pumps that—final piece of honesty—don’t actually warm their homes as well as the heaters they already have. It shouldn't cost so much money simply to save a government's face.

Germany: A Cautionary Tale

Richard Fernandez recently wrote about Germany's famous (and infamous) Energiewende policy program, whose object was to transition the country away from low-carbon natural gas and effectively zero-carbon nuclear energy, but whose consequence has been to replace them with carbon-intensive coal while getting the country addicted to Russian oil and gas. The irony of this is something we've touched on before at The Pipeline, as when we pointed out the fact that Germany, an inspiration to environmentalists the world over, has been "bulldozing forests for the purposes of mining coal," at the same time as the purportedly evil empire of America, governed by a cabal of grasping oil executives in smoke-filled rooms, has led the world in total emissions reduction since the year 2000.

In a more just world, tree-huggers everywhere would be celebrating the fracking revolution rather than obsessing over environmentally questionable solar panels and biomass. But, as Fernandez discusses, while we could all see how badly the Energiewende was going -- the Wall Street Journal called it the "world’s dumbest energy policy" years ago -- the war in Ukraine upped the ante considerably. Read his piece for the key details, but one point worth emphasizing is the tremendous economic bind German environmentalism has put the country in. While well-intentioned bleeding hearts the world over have been calling for a total embargo of Russian energy exports, the German government's economic advisors have been pointing out that such an action would lead to a significant contraction of the German economy. Reuters:

Germany would face a sharp recession if gas supplies from Russia are suddenly cut off, the country's leading economic institutes said on Wednesday, and the government said the war in Ukraine poses "substantial risks" for Europe's largest economy. A sudden stop in Russian energy supplies... would slow economic growth to 1.9 percent this year and result in a contraction of 2.2 percent in 2023, they said.... "If gas supplies were to be cut off, the German economy would undergo a sharp recession," said [the Kiel Institute's] Stefan Kooths.... The cumulative loss of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 and 2023 in the event of a such supply freeze would likely be around 220 billion euros ($238 billion), or more than 6.5% of annual economic output, the five institutes said.

All you need is a little
Latvian blend."

In fact, it has been reported that for all of their anti-Russian rhetoric, energy starved European nations have been looking for ways to get around the sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of the invasion. One popular loophole involves the blending of Russian petroleum products in foreign ports with those sourced from other countries. If less than 50 percent of a barrel comes from Russia, it can be sold under a different flag. "Latvian blend" oil has become the euphemism of choice for this product, as Ventspils, a port city Latvia, is where much of this mixing takes place.

There's a take-away from all of this for the United States, Canada, and any other free (or relatively free) nation blessed with natural resources. That is: if you want to control your own destiny, don't follow Germany down this road. It was laid out for them by anti-human, anti-civilization nihilists, and the cost has been astronomical. They exist in our nations too, and they have amassed considerable power. But if we care about our future, it is imperative that we give them the cold shoulder. We need to start putting our interests first, and not empowering "humanitarians" whose efforts inevitably benefit the bad actors of the world.

In Ukraine, Farewell to the 'New World Order'

Hostilities in the Ukraine are now in their second month, devastating the country, destabilizing economies around the world and provoking fears of a wider conflict. It is a war in which there are no heroes: Putin is a military aggressor, Zelensky is the beneficiary of the U.S.-inspired 2014 Euromaidan coup, and Biden and other Western leaders are reckless provocateurs. Interestingly, it has been said that Ukraine is not only about Ukraine or even about Russian imperialism but also about the expansion of neo-Liberal global reach into the economic structure (via SWIFT, the International Monetary Fund, etc.), military organization (via NATO) and the political order of other nations, along with regime change in Russia or its reduction to a pariah state.

There is considerable agreement among scholars and experts that substantiates the hypothesis. Former Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs Bruno Maçães points out that “the West feels entitled to pursue its particular vision with all the tools of state power—in many cases, military power… Western values and norms [need] to be interpreted and enforced, and the most powerful nations in the West have always arrogated that task to themselves.” 

More recently, in a wide-ranging interview in The New Yorker with specific reference to Ukraine, University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer argues that “the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for this crisis.” Mearsheimer’s hypothesis is clearly predicated on Thucydides’ classic History of The Peloponnesian War. The issue unraveled there is extraordinarily complex, but Thucydides isolates the root cause of the conflict in Athenian power projection and Sparta’s fear of military encroachment and market domination. Each of the belligerents felt it had justice and reason on its side—the concept of πρόφασις (prophasis—the reason or excuse for going to war), which Thucydides carefully distinguishes, will obviously vary, depending on whether you are an Athenian or a Spartan, an American or a Russian. Who is the real aggressor? 

It's all about prophasis.

Mearsheimer, like his historical predecessor, underscores fear or apprehension as the central prophasis. “There is a three-prong strategy at play here,” he writes: “E.U. expansion, NATO expansion, and turning Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy.” Russian “fear” of Western power projection on its intimate borders is, for him, the crucial issue.

Mearsheimer is not an oracle—he was patently misguided in his denunciation of the “Israel lobby”—but his view on the Ukrainian imbroglio is persuasive. Moreover, whether he is wrong or right on Ukraine pales in comparison with the geopolitical events now massively underway. Certainly, if Western expansion is the plan, it does not appear to be working.  Unintended consequences will often prevail. As Robert Burns famously wrote, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” 

The quagmire in which the West now finds itself is deep, but Zelensky’s urging NATO to “close the skies” is an option that, so to speak, will not fly, short of igniting a major, perhaps nuclear, war that no sane person wants. Indeed, at this point in time, perhaps the most convulsive effect of American and European policy is the unanticipated decoupling of a major part of the world from the so-called New World Order and from a global market ideology, both promoted and imposed by Western powers

Additionally, the laying of crushing sanctions on Russia—the current version of the “Megarian decrees” invoked to exclude Megarian merchants from Athenian markets and, according to Thucydides, one of the initial sparks of the Peloponnesian War—has been an abysmal failure. The result should have been predictable: “enormous economic repercussions” and recessionary pressures at home and the strengthening of the Russian ruble, which has rebounded from its near collapse to become one of the world’s best-performing currencies, currently pegged at 83 to the dollar. 

Putin’s requiring payment in rubles from “unfriendly” nations for Russia’s energy and commodity exports has also helped to recapitalize the ruble. In effect, the severing of Russia from the West has solidified the country’s trade relationships with non-compliant nations like China, India and the Arab bloc, as well as encouraged it to replace its reliance on the international SWIFT banking and messaging network with the Chinese alternative, the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS. Russia and China are also intent on promoting growing cooperation with BRICS, an overlapping economic group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in order tooptimiz[e] global economic governance.” According to Ross Kennedy of the Securities Studies Group, this collaboration will eventually lead to a notable increase in non-dollar and non-euro denominated trade.”

This rupture has led to the emergence of what scholars call “Civilization States,” a term coined by ethnopologist Emil Pain as “civilizational nationalism.” Whether this is a pioneering or a regressive development is irrelevant; it is a fact. The concept is elaborated in Taras Kuzio’s just published Russian Nationalism and the Russian-Ukrainian War, which is not kind to Putin, and in an important essay by Fabian Linde referring to countries, in Emil Pain’s words, that affirm an “ideology of separateness” intended to consolidate “society on the basis of concepts of a common historical and cultural essence and to counterpose [one’s] own special and unique community to ‘foreign’ communities.” 

In opposition to the universalist philosophy of the West, such countries embrace their own history, culture, traditions and “currency first” legislation, establish their own trade and diplomatic rules for dealing with the international community, focus on linguistic and religious continuities, stress the importance of longstanding parental and kinship relations as a means to social coherence, and strive to become self-sustaining cultural mega-units via multipolar trade and currency partnerships with other civilization states. In Russia’s case, as noted, these would be China, India and the oil-producing Arab states. Smaller nations, as well, are considering following Russia’s example. The dominoes are beginning to fall. 

In the words of Samuel Huntington from The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, “a civilization is the broadest cultural entity” where people “feel culturally at home.” Former Cambridge University sociologist Göran Therborn similarly describes civilization as “an ancient cultural configuration… the deepest layer of contemporary cultural geology,” a more comprehensive and historically unified totality than the discrete political organization and constitutional frameworks of nation states. In essence, a civilization state is a more encompassing prescriptive category than that of the nation-state. 

How's that globalism workin' out for ya?

As Indian General Secretary of the ruling Bharatiya Janatra Party Ram Madhav has deposed, “Asia will rule the world, and that changes everything because in Asia we have civilizations rather than nations.” Analogously, Bruno Maçães recalls, during a visit to China, being told by his handler: “Always remember that China is a civilization rather than a nation state.” Nation-states, Maçães reminds us, “are a Western invention. Civilizations are an alternative to the West… a common, increasingly integrated political and economic landscape.” The civilization-state refuses to sacrifice its specific culture for the sake of the secular and cosmopolitan unipolar project adopted by Western societies. Nor does it consider the so-called “international community of nations” as more than a convenient Western figment.

Another basic distinction between the Western nation-state in its contemporary evolution and the Eastern civilization-state in its current emergence has to do with borders. While retaining its governing apparatus, the modern nation state is increasingly porous, opening its borders to refugees legal and illegal and rampant immigration. The development of a centralized banking network equally plays into the dissolution of independent monetary policy—that is, the nation-state has opened its fiscal borders as well. The civilization-state, while larger in its population mass and in its embracing of long-enduring cultural values and historical antecedents, is paradoxically smaller in the sense of keeping its borders closed to outliers and resisting global control of its currency protocols, trading provisions and supervening organizations. 

This is very bad news for the missionary universalism of the neo-Liberal unipolar West and its presumably unstoppable historical thrust toward a global neo-liberal system, which Francis Fukayama enthusiastically touted in The End of History and the Last Man. As a result of a momentous miscalculation regarding the Ukraine conflict, treating it as a pretext to augment its own political, military and fiscal hegemony, the days of Western supremacy appear to be over and the Globalist fantasy dead in the water. 

Fukuyama: maybe not the "end of history" after all.

According to CBS, in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov painted a picture of a new and different “world order,” saying the world was "living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations” and that Russia and China, along with others, will move to create a new and unique multipolar world.

The march of Western nations toward an interlocking fiscal system based on the petrodollar as the world’s reserve currency and governing the world’s trade arrangements and political future seems helpless before the tectonic shift of Eastern and Eurasian polities toward a new system of communal and economic interdependence. The civilization-state is in process of supplanting the independent-but-allied Western model of decentralised states regarded since the Peace of Westphalia as the global paradigm for political organization and cross-national codification of a particular set of laws and treaty obligations—often, be it said, more honored in the breach than in the observance. The conflict in Ukraine has been the catalyst of a scalar reconfiguration in the political orbits of nations and civilizations.

In The Rise of the Civilizational State, Christopher Coker warns that we are “living in a world in which civilization is fast becoming the currency of international politics.” The evangelical zeal and self-interest of Western-centric liberalism, with its one-size-fits-all rule-based political structure and its dominant financial institutions as embodied in the nation-state, is coming to an end. “The west may be out of the business,” he writes, “of shaping history for everyone else, or even itself.” The best laid schemes of military planners and state politicians do often gang aft a-gley.

Germany's 'Renewable Energy' Policy: Who's Laughing Now?

In 2019 Germany announced an ambitious "climate change" goal: by 2022, it would close its last nuclear power plant and by 2038, stop burning coal altogether. The Wall Street Journal called it at the time the "world’s dumbest energy policy," but the Germans said it was all part of the Energiewende (German for 'energy turnaround') the ongoing transition to a low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply. Then an event occurred in 2022 which demonstrated how much Green energy was politics. Russia invaded Ukraine.

The repercussions of the invasion rippled like hydrostatic shock through the whole fabric of the European "climate change" agenda. At a stroke the war made natural gas from Moscow on which Germany was dependent politically toxic and killed sacred cows like the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline overnight. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, addressing Germany’s parliament, promised he would "create strategic energy reserves while shifting energy purchases away from Russia." Germany took steps to revive its nuclear power industry by extending the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants. Even coal was back on the table for Europe, as politicians mooted keeping anything that could produce power going. "All options must be on the table," said the German Economic Affairs and Energy Minister.

Biking may be your best bet, Germany.

But sheer habit and inertia die hard. From the start the Green agenda fought back. John Kerry warned the Russian invasion of Ukraine would worsen climate change. "The top White House climate official said a negative impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be that it sidelines efforts to curb emissions worldwide." Despite the fact that fuel was a basic necessity and Europe's immediate problem was how to get energy from anywhere, such was the power of Green that U.N. Secretary General António Guterres specifically warned against quickly replacing Russian oil if it would "neglect or kneecap policies to cut fossil fuel use."

Trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, Europe's compromise strategy was to "diversify gas supplies to reduce reliance on Russia in the short term... but ultimately to boost renewables and energy efficiency as fast as technically possible."  In effect Europe would try to solve the energy shortage caused by its renewables policy without politically abandoning the climate change ideology.

The first step to walking this tightrope is European energy rationing. Although no specifics have been announced, proposals include include lowering speed limits and introducing car-free Sundays in large cities.  Rationing is being sold as both good for the planet and bad for Putin -- a win-win. "This point is about trying to bring down demand for fossil fuels — this is our true and effective weapon against Vladimir Putin,” a Cambridge University academic said.

But on the supply side there were few quick fixes to the problem of storing the output of wind and solar energy, even assuming that enough could be generated by these means. "The ability to cheaply generate, transport and store a clean replacement fuel like hydrogen to power trucks, cars and airplanes remains years away... [the] chief technology officer of the offshore wind unit at Siemens Gamesa, said that companies like his 'are now forced to do investments based on the prosperous future that we are all waiting for'."

A similar challenge faces the electric grid for it to universally replace the internal combustion engine. By dint of emergency efforts Europe hopes to have a hydrogen infrastructure in place by 2030 -- eight years from now -- a gargantuan task. Green requires a complete overhaul of how people live -- digitalization, smart grids and meters, flexibility markets, the electrification of transport, charging points -- the works. All of it is necessary to store wind and solar power and get it to the consumer.

The triumph of hope over experience.

However exhilarating this transformative vision is, not every country is willing to put all its eggs into the Green basket. Britain and France, perhaps harboring secret doubts, plan to invest in small, new technology nuclear reactors. The normally left wing Guardian ran an op-ed proclaiming "we need to revive the U.K.’s nuclear industry." But even with a change of heart plants take time to build and in the short term Europe has no choice but to import fossil fuels from non-Russian sources, principally the U.S. and the Middle East if it is to avoid economic catastrophe.

From Angola to the U.S. gas is heading for Europe. "Toby Rice, who runs the U.S. largest natural gas producer EQT, told the BBC the U.S. could easily replace Russian supply... He estimated the U.S. has the potential to quadruple its gas output by 2030... U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urged the country's fuel industry to pump more oil. 'We are on a war footing. That means you producing more right now, where and if you can'." Energiewende may not be "world’s dumbest energy policy" but only because it can repudiate itself.

The nearly comic irony of progressives being in the "drill baby drill" situation is hardly ever pointed out, it being considered bad form to do so. But it may be useful to recall that Germany's delegation at the U.N. General Assembly once laughed during then-President Trump's speech when he suggested that Germany was becoming “totally dependent” upon Russian energy, as shown in this video from the Washington Post. With the benefit of hindsight there's no denying that mistakes were made regarding Russia's suitability as a Green energy partner. Even Mitt Romney pointed out the growing threat posed by Putin during his 2012 presidential campaign against Obama but he too was laughed to scorn. It's fair to say that nobody's laughing now.

THE COLUMN: No Country for Old Men

The President of the United States, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., who is 79 years old and suffering from senile dementia at the end of a long life of bullying, lying, boasting, conniving, grifting, grafting, and living off the public tit to an extent indecent even by Washington standards, declared war on Russia on Friday. In the course of a typically blustering, hectoring speech, the senescent Biden went off script and interpolated the following peroration: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."

To which the only proper response is: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in the Oval Office." Joe Biden needs to be removed from the White House as soon as possible, before his failing mind, his erratic behavior, and his proven lack of character get us all killed. The question is, is there enough political will in the capital to do what needs to be done?

Biden's blunder was immediately walked back by the few adults left in the room, called a "gaffe," or—worse—actually defended by the neocons and other leftists as truth-telling on a heroic scale, evocative of Ronald Reagan's 1987 "tear down this wall" speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, which two years later actually did result in the Wall coming down. But his rash words continue to ring, now matter how swiftly his handlers and apologists and even Biden himself try to make us disbelieve our own lying ears:

Mush-mouthed as usual, and delivered with all the Scrantonian sincerity of one of his typical campaign speeches, Biden's address was not only the low-water mark of his presidency so far, but a nadir in the history of the United States and its practice of diplomacy. 

As bad as the State Department is, it's generally been able to enforce some sort of diplomatic protocol on even its loosest cannons. Barack Hussein Obama's spectacular breach of etiquette in his toast to Queen Elizabeth in 2011 was a notable exception. On the other hand, Donald Trump's own Warsaw speech in 2017 was a triumph of forceful, cogent argumentation and a full-throated defense of Western civilization.

But for Biden to end his intemperate saber-rattling with a call for Vladimir Putin to be deposed is something nearly unprecedented in our nation's history. George H.W. Bush, during his feckless and pointless war against Saddam Hussein, effectively did so, at least as a hypothetical, and characteristically hedged his bets:

'I would be be willing to take a new look if the army took matters into their own hands,' said Bush, who noted that the United States would not resume normal relations with Iraq as long as Saddam remains in power. 'If a new regime emerged then I'd like to see what their goals are.' Despite his claim that Saddam 'has got to go,' Bush said again that it is not his intention to involve the United States in Iraq's internal affairs.

But Saddam wasn't deposed, and it was left to Bush II to clean up Poppy's mess, by making an even bigger one.

During his long occupation of a Senate seat, Biden served for many years on the foreign-relations committee, and learned all the wrong lessons without acquiring an ounce of real-world savvy. This is the problem with electing a lifelong senator to the presidency with no prior executive experience except ribbon-cutting ceremonies and attending foreign funerals as veep. Senators' words have no real-world consequences; presidents' do. Senators can say anything they want, because their words carry no executive authority and they cannot be legally held accountable for them. They're meant for the ears of voters back home, not for the guy in the Kremlin with his finger on the button.

For 50 years this creepy blowhard has been dining out off his dead wife and daughter, and more recently, a dead son, parlaying sympathy votes into a lifetime sinecure. Now, by accident/design/hook/crook he's Potus. And God help us, by calling for regime change in Moscow, he's just given the Russians a casus belli, should they choose to accept it. They would be perfectly within their rights to do so under the laws of war.

All in all, it's just another hair-raising moment in the funhouse ride from hell that has been the Biden "presidency" so far. Robinette Junior came to D.C. in the 1970s and he's brought the '70 back along with him to the White House: flaccid leadership, an energy crisis, rampant inflation, and consummate failure abroad. Even the lickspittle media can't disguise the stench of his latest poll numbers

Amid Europe’s largest land war since World War II, 7 in 10 Americans expressed low confidence in President Joe Biden’s ability to deal with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a new NBC News poll, and 8 in 10 voiced worry that the war will increase gas prices and possibly involve nuclear weapons. And during the nation’s largest inflation spike in 40 years, overwhelming majorities said they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and disapproved of the president’s handling of the economy. Those are some of the major findings of the new national NBC News poll, which found that Biden’s overall job approval rating had declined to 40 percent, the lowest level of his presidency. 

This simply cannot continue if the nation is to survive. The stumbling block, of course, is what would come after him should he be removed via the 25th amendment or suffer an unfortunate act of God or simply reach the end of his rapidly diminishing physical and mental capacity: President Kamala Harris. A vapid affirmative-action female-type person without the slightest aptitude for any job she's so far been handed by the Democratic establishments in California and D.C., she very likely would be even worse than her current boss, at least for the short time she, too, would hold office.

Heroes to zeroes in two years.

But take heart: there is precedent. During the Democrat/Washington Post coup against Richard Nixon in 1974, the first order of business was to remove Tricky Dick's veep, the genially corrupt Spiro T. Agnew, the former Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland, on conveniently discovered charges of penny-ante bribery, extortion, and income-tax violations. Such things were and remain part of the way business is done in Baltimore—just ask the former Nancy d'Alesandro, now Speaker Pelosi, about corruption in Baltimore—but they suddenly loomed large when it was time to overturn the results of the 1972 presidential election, which saw Nixon win 60.7 percent of the popular vote, carry 49 states (he lost only Massachusetts and D.C.), and garner 520 electoral votes.

Less than two years later, both Agnew (replaced by congressman Gerald Ford) and Nixon were gone. So it can be done, and perfectly legally. And don't worry—if Biden were to leave office early, Nancy Pelosi would not automatically become vice president. The succession pecking order only kicks in when both the senior executive offices suddenly become vacant. 

Removing Biden shouldn't be that difficult. Section 4 reads:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

There's a catch, of course:

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

We can cross that Rubicon when we come to it. America at this point in her history is no country for old men, no matter which party they belong to.

               ELLIS
           ...What you got ain't nothin' new.
           This country is hard on people. Hard
           and crazy. Got the devil in it yet
           folks never seem to hold it to
           account.

                        BELL
           I'm... discouraged.

                          ELLIS
           You can't stop what's comin. Ain't
           all waitin' on you.
The two men look at each other. Ellis shakes his head. ELLIS ...That's vanity.

In the meantime, and for the sake of the nation, Biden must go. 

'A Disgrace for Any Democracy'

It is likely that no one in the world has benefitted more from the war in Ukraine than Justin Trudeau. After all, the Russian invasion began on February 24th, at a time when Trudeau's tyrannical treatment of the peaceful (if rambunctious) Freedom Convoy protestors in Ottawa and their supporters throughout the country was the talk of the western world. Just a day prior, on the 23rd, Trudeau had revoked the Emergencies Act, the legislation which significantly increased his government's power to curtail civil liberties, reportedly because he was concerned that it wouldn't pass review by the Canadian senate.

The whole thing revealed Trudeau's inner tin-pot dictator, and his international standing was at a low ebb. And then Putin made his move and it all got lost in the shuffle. Justin got to go back to playing the smiling defender of "norms" against more butch tyrants like Big Bad Vlad.

But this episode hasn't been entirely forgotten. On Wednesday, Trudeau delivered an banality-filled address to the European Parliament in Brussels. But while enumerating specific threats to democracy, he foolishly mentioned the Freedom Convoy protest in his homeland. That was where he came a cropper. According to Duane Rolheiser:

Croatian M.E.P. Mislav Kolakusic responded by calling out Trudeau for violating the civil rights of Canadians participating in the Freedom Convoy protests. In a blistering speech to fellow EU Parliamentarians, Kolakusic turned to Trudeau and called his actions in crushing the Ottawa protest “dictatorship of the worst kind.” Trudeau sat quietly and listened as the MP from Croatia informed him many Europeans watched as he “trampled women with horses,” and blocked “the bank accounts of single parents.”

And that wasn't all. German M.E.P. Christine Anderson condemned the prime minister's "persecuting and criminalizing his own citizens as terrorists" and insisted that he "should not be allowed to speak in this house at all." She ended by addressing him directly, saying "Mr. Trudeau, you are a disgrace for any democracy. Please spare us your presence."

Further, Rolheiser points out that Romanian M.E.P. Cristian Terheș had boycotted the day's proceedings specifically because of Trudeau's presence, but had given him a sound lashing on social media anyway, saying:

You can’t come to teach Putin’s democracy lessons from the European Parliament, when you pass with horse hoofs over your own citizens who demand that their fundamental rights be respected. The difference between democracy and tyranny is not given by the geographical location of political leaders, but by the values that this promotes.... Between the Russian imperialist tyranny, promoted by Putin, and the neo-Marxist tyranny claimed to be progressive promoted also by Trudeau, in which people are deprived of their rights and freedoms, becoming the objects of the state, I do not choose any. I choose, instead, to promote and fight for the same conservative values that brought peace through prosperity in Europe: national sovereignty, individual freedom and respect for human rights, which are a gift I received from [God] because we are created in His image and likeness.

Hear, hear! It is nice to see that Trudeau hasn't successfully memory-holed his treatment of the truckers and their supporters. And, what's more, he spends so much time away from his own parliament these days, it is nice to see him get told off to his face.

Enemies of the People: Vladimir Putin (2)

Dealing with the Fallout from Putin's Folly

BUDAPEST -- It is impossible to calculate as yet the number of Ukrainian refugees who have been displaced from their homes by the Russian invasion and forced to flee to safety. An estimated 2.7 million Ukrainians have been accepted by Poland and Hungary and now rest in those countries. Others have gone to neighboring countries or farther afield where they have homes, foreign spouses, and family connections—there are large Ukrainian diasporas across the world, especially in the so-called Anglosphere. Finally, an unknown but large number of Ukrainians have left cities like Kiev under attack to stay with family members and other places of refuge across Ukraine.

By the time the killing stops, as many as 4-5 million Ukrainians could be living outside Ukraine and as many more (out of a population of forty million) will have moved into rural areas or regions outside the war zone. This displacement of millions of people by war is a humanitarian disaster, but of what kind we don’t yet know. That will depend in part on the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian War. If it were to end quickly in a clear victory for either side, the refugees would almost all return to rebuild their homes.

"Russian women: Call your sons and husbands home."

Cities where they used to live are being pulverized into ruins by the Russian invader. Restoring those destroyed cities—as the Poles restored Warsaw after the Nazis leveled the city in World War Two—will be Ukraine’s first task. The country would receive a great deal of European and American help to do so.

But if the refugees are returning to a country under Russian occupation or divided between Western and Russian “sectors”—with or without a peace treaty—many will want to wage a guerrilla war to drive the invader out. That’s the kind of spirit that currently grips Ukrainians everywhere, and it’s likely to grow fiercer while the war persists.

In the first case, the refugee crisis will be short-lived. Ukrainians are not leaving their country now because they want to live somewhere else. They are leaving it to avoid being bombed or shelled by Russian soldiers. Once that’s no longer threatening them (even if Russia has stationed troops there), the great majority of them will return home—and the refugee crisis will cease to exist.

It is the second case—a Ukraine wholly or partly occupied by Russia—that will produce a permanent refugee crisis. Some refugees will return home to fight; most (probably) will want to settle down in the Western country where they find themselves “for the duration” of Russian occupation. That could be a decade or more.

How should these recipient countries handle this longer-term problem? And how are they actually doing so?

The best models for dealing with this kind of semi-permanent refugee problem are how the world handled the outflow of Hungarians fleeing the Russian occupiers in 1956 and how four years later the international community endorsed the proposal for World Refugee Year that—astonishing though that now seems—cleared up the backlog of post-WWII refugees still living in Displaced Persons camps across the continent. Some years ago I wrote about why WRY succeeded:

First, everyone knew that the refugees and DPs were genuine. The Second World War had ended only thirteen years before, and they were its last visible victims. No one thought they were disguised “economic migrants” who anyway in 1958 were welcome in many countries. Second, they were few in number and largely passive. Unless another hot war broke out, there was unlikely to be many more of them. No one imagined that there was a limitless “pool” of refugees who might overwhelm national borders if governments relaxed their entry rules. Third, we had just had the successful experience of resettling the Hungarian émigrés of 1956. All the Western countries had co-operated in an international effort to take in the “Fifty-sixers” in numbers appropriate to the population size of each recipient country. Austria wasn’t left to handle the exodus for itself simply because it bordered Hungary. All these things fostered an international mood that was receptive to the idea.

Flashback to 2015: a different kind of "migrant" crisis.

Very few of these conditions existed in 2015 when the last refugee crisis erupted which, incidentally, Europe as a whole handled badly, taking about two years to reach the commonsense restrictions that Hungary had imposed almost from the first. But the current Ukrainian refugee outflow does resemble the 1956 and 1960 refugee problems and in principle can be successfully handled by European governments, E.U. agencies, and civil society NGOs.

No one doubts they’re genuine refugees, not economic migrants; they enjoy enormous sympathy from people who have watched on the media the destruction of their homes; they’re disproportionately women and children whose men stay to fight (or to be conscripted—though that stirs indignation from an Amherst feminist legal scholar who argues with perverse ingenuity that Ukrainian women are being deprived of their human right to be conscripted equally with men); and almost all of them hope to return to Ukraine before too long and don’t want to put down roots elsewhere.

All of these qualities ensure that as in 1956, the refugees really are welcome. The only thing that makes people nervous about this inflow is the large numbers involved. A few days ago Bloomberg reported that Slovakia, an E.U. border state of 5.5 million, was experiencing the biggest migration crisis in its history, with an influx of more than 176,000. The figure will be larger now.

What has helped Europe to handle the crisis well is that the politicization of refugee policy—indeed, its weaponization by the Left—has been held in check so far by the crisis. The E.U. Summit’s statement on refugees was rooted in cooperation with national governments:

We commend European countries, notably at the borders with Ukraine, for showing immense solidarity in hosting Ukrainian war refugees. The EU and its Member States will continue to show solidarity and provide humanitarian, medical and financial support to all refugees and the countries hosting them.

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A report from Bloomberg Equality—headlined "Ukraine Crisis Highlights Europe's History of Treating Some Refugees Differently"—conceded through gritted teeth that Poland and Hungary, “two of the most unwelcoming countries” in 2015, had stepped up to the plate:

Hungary, which even built a fence to keep people at bay, has been offering a helpful hand as mostly women with children pour across its border with Ukraine. Prime Minister Viktor Orban explained the change last week, telling reporters “we are able to tell the difference between who is a migrant and who is a refugee. Migrants are stopped. Refugees can get all the help.

In a visit to the Ukraine-Hungary border, historian Andrew Roberts reporting in The Spectator on the work of voluntary religious organizations and bodies like the Order of Malta and the Order of St. John in helping refugees to safety, commented:

There has been some panic in the railway stations in the east, especially during Russian shelling, but for the great majority of the two million people who have left, it has been a well- organized evacuation. Ukrainian men bid emotional farewell to their elderly parents, wives and children before turning around and resolutely heading off eastwards to fight, pleased that their families are safe. One is not supposed to praise manliness in modern society, but there is no other word for what is happening here, and it is not ‘toxic’ but uplifting.

In short, whatever the horrors of Putin’s war or the lack of Europe’s military and economic preparedness for it, everyone—the E.U., NGOs, and even “bad boy” governments like Poland and Hungary—was doing the right thing by refugees.

Sometimes toxic masculinity is exactly what's called for.

All of which is very encouraging but probably overstates the willingness of the E.U. and its senior member states such as France and Germany to forget differences over hot-button issues like refugee policy in the common struggle against Putin.

Even as Poland and Hungary were bearing the heaviest burdens of dealing with rising refugee numbers and other consequences of Putin’s war on Ukraine, the European courts, cheered on by the European parliament, were imposing large fines on both countries for their alleged offenses against the "rule of law." The rule under which these fines were levied is itself an offense against the rule of law and opens the way for centralized E.U. institutions in Brussels to use financial blackmail against member states, forcing them to toe the line on issues that are outside the “competences” of Brussels.

For the moment refugee policy is not a matter of dispute, but one of cooperation and sympathy, between Brussels and national parliaments. That, however, is probably the calm before the storm.