“Energy remains the fuel of our economy”

AND will he have cucumber and tomatoes at Christmas? The Netherlands, the homeland of intensive agriculture, usually provides this with their giant greenhouses. But the year 2021 will be different. The gas that heats them in winter runs out and the electricity that lights them suddenly becomes overpriced. The energy chaos which has already paralyzed part of British industry is now spreading to Europe. Disillusionment. After a blank year in 2020, which saw energy consumption drop in Europe, suggesting that the energy transition had started, demand is skyrocketing and prices even faster.

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On the demand side, coal and gas consumption has already risen above their 2019 level, and this will be the case at the end of 2021 for oil. On the price side, a perfect storm has set in to take the prices of all fossil fuels to historic highs. It originated this summer on the Pearl River side in southeastern China.

A terrible drought hit the whole region, lowering the water level by up to 80%. The hydroelectric power stations have stopped working. The authorities then turned to coal to provide electricity. But there was also a lack of coal, due to new regulatory safety constraints which reduced the activity of many mines. The country then imported massive amounts of coal and natural gas.

Terrible paradox

Qatar’s regular customer, Europe, found itself competing with Chinese demand. The prices started to climb. As if that were not enough, the wind has weakened in the North Sea, compromising the supply of electricity by offshore wind turbines. The demand for gas in Europe has jumped. Azerbaijan and Russia, at the other end of European gas pipelines, are rubbing their hands. Qatar orders new giant LNG carriers, and prices are rising to unprecedented levels.

The development of renewable energies should have eased the prices of gas and coal, which have become less useful, and the reverse is happening.

So here we are plunged into a terrible paradox, as we approach the 26e United Nations climate conference (COP26), to be held in Glasgow (Scotland), from October 31 to November 12. The development of renewable energies, which provide a quarter to a third of electricity in Great Britain and Germany, should have eased the prices of gas and coal, which have become less useful, and it is the reverse which occurs. A drought at the end of the world, a breeze which dies and the machine races, carrying in its wake the course of the carbon quota, which has doubled in a few months.

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