Here we are in a season of counterweighting emotions. On one hand, the holiday season is close, the season of good cheer and all that other greeting card stuff. On the other hand, the sun is up for five minutes per day, it’s been horribly cold for more than a month already, and the entire landscape is either grey or brownish mud-grey.
In the spirit of the dominance of the latter mood, it is a good time to descend into the septic tank that is the mainstream news flow. I won’t wallow for long, lord help me, but there are important vectors in the world today that deserve to be scrutinized.
The mainstream news flow is, in general, too late, too opinionated/politicized, and, if it clears those hurdles, is often too sensationalistic. However, in their search for shock and awe, there are glimmers of stories we should all be following.
If you read columns here regularly, you will be familiar with some of the broader themes below, but they come from a curmudgeon on a soapbox. It’s time to give my vocal cords a rest since the world is providing plenty of clarity. What follows are tragic stories of human suffering, wild hypocrisy, and, threaded through, a glimpse into the cast of characters orchestrating it all.
Following are a sequence of headlines and story snippets; read them and judge for yourself. Here we go!
Pakistan energy shortage could last years, blackouts expected this year: Report. “Not one supplier responded to Pakistan LNG Ltd.’s tender to buy the power-plant fuel for between four to six years starting January.”
LNG cargoes destined for Bangladesh being rerouted to Europe: WB “‘This led to widespread power cuts in some countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, which were unable to compete with Europe to purchase LNG cargoes on the spot market,’ says the report.”
The Powerful New Financial Argument for Fossil-Fuel Divestment – Bill McKibben/NewYorker “BlackRock should be bold and proactively offer this as a core piece of its financial advice.
What would happen if the world’s largest investment firm issued that advice and its clients followed it?…It would show that a report issued by a small London think tank a decade ago had turned the financial world’s view of climate upside down.”
Students Dance for Divestment at McGill ““We’re calling on our institutions to divest from fossil fuels and to justly re-invest into things that actually help the community.” (It appears to be actually true that university students are unable to grasp that fossil fuels not just help communities but keep them alive, every single one of them.)
How Fossil Fuel Divestment falls short – Harvard Business Review “…divestment will lead to the sector’s demise and create a better environment for accelerating renewable energy efforts.”
Rising fuel costs are crippling Africa’s economies “Rising fuel prices are hitting Africans hard at a time when the prices of basic foods have also risen dramatically…The Kenyan government, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise more revenue, had raised taxes on household goods such as cooking gas, fuel, and food by 14%…In Togo and Ivory Coast, food prices have also nearly doubled.”
U.S., other countries cut funding for international fossil fuel projects “…this is the first time that a number of key countries have come together to say that their public finance cannot be used for the financing of fossil fuels.” (Targets of this blockade are developing countries.)
2022: Germany inaugurates first new LNG terminal “The completion in 194 days represented an unprecedented pace of construction in Germany, made possible by permitting exceptions and forgoing environmental impact assessments.” (Germany has been among the loudest to abandon fossil fuels.)
NY to Divest Pension Fund from Exxon and Other Oil and Gas Corporations From New York: “Humanity is engaged in an epic battle to save the planet for future generations.The enemy is fossil fuels, and every step that works toward shutting them down is critical.”
LNG: European thirst for natural gas puts Bangladesh and Pakistan in the dark ““Europe is trying to grab every molecule of gas wherever it is available…They are purchasing everything from current to future gas. And their purchasing power is much higher than that of developing countries. So obviously, countries like Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have been hit very hard.”
Pakistan is in the midst of a severe energy crisis and last week it emerged that it had failed to attract a single bid from suppliers for a tender to supply one cargo of LNG per month for between four and six years. For months, Pakistan has also struggled to buy LNG on the shorter term spot markets.
The consequences for certain countries are stark. Last week, Bangladesh suffered its worst blackouts in almost a decade, with more than 100 million people left without power for several hours. For months, Bangladesh has been struggling to secure enough gas on global markets.”
The ships full of gas waiting off Europe’s coast “…that’s one reason why LNG ships are waiting around – some are queuing for access to regasification terminals. In the meantime, Germany and the Netherlands have invested in new regasification facilities. Some, rapidly built using converted LNG ships pinned to docksides, are expected to become operational within months.
On top of this bottleneck, less gas is getting used up in Europe than it otherwise might at present because the weather has been very mild well into October.”
Reuters Analysis: Can COP27 deter Africa from a ‘dash for gas’ in green energy transition?
Game Not Over: Resistance Against East African Crude Oil Pipeline “The global #STopEACOP [pipeline] campaign is mobilising support and putting pressure on investors to stop the flow of money towards construction. At least 15 banks and six of the world’s leading insurers have so far publicly pledged not support it. The struggle continues.”
Europe’s Rush to Buy Africa’s Natural Gas Draws Cries of Hypocrisy “Near the tip of Nigeria’s Bonny Island, an arrowhead speck of land where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Niger Delta, a giant plant last year produced enough liquefied natural gas to heat half the UK for the winter. Most of it was shipped out of the country, with Spain, France and Portugal the biggest buyers.
Just 17 miles away in the town of Bodo, residents still use black-market kerosene and diesel to light wood stoves and power electricity generators.”
2021: IEA zero emissions roadmap’s bombshell: no new fossil-fuel investment beyond 2021 Hmm, sounds like the Euro-centric IEA is fairly clear, if one wants Net Zero 2050 – they’re the only ones that have actually drawn a roadmap. Stop the fossil-fuel development, now!
But then again on the other other hand: Fossil fuel recruiters banned from three more UK universities
Ok, ok, I can almost hear you dry-heaving. Almost done – here are two last quotes, one for comic relief from the theatre of the absurd, and another to offer hope.
Peter Kalmus, NASA Climate Scientist, ultra-uber-anti-fossil fuels activist, on Twitter: “I’ve been trying everything I can think of to get the public to realize what an emergency [climate] we’re in for 17 years now.”
You would be correct in wondering what mental disorder leads to calling something an emergency for 17 consecutive years, a time in which the condition, according to him, only worsened. The whole thing kind of makes a mockery of the term “emergency response”, but that’s how some people think. They are so enraged they just make sh*t up.
In one article Kalmus describes being on a hike that was so hot that “lizards fried, right there on the rocks…and songbirds fell from the sky.” Quite the hike. Very interesting how this middle-aged perptual-emergency machine managed to survive where lizards and birds couldn’t. Kalmus’ own wife describes him as having “almost like a pornographic fascination with ‘Oh, I’m going to imagine just how bad everything is going to be.’”
Of relevance here, Kalmus himself in the article gets right to the point: “The overt denialists are easy villains, the monsters who look like monsters. But the rest of us, much of the time, wear pretty green masks over our self-interest and denial…”
I wouldn’t bring the guy up at all, except for two reasons: his line of thinking directly underlines the above actions that are destroying the world’s fuel system, and his quote brings up my last, brilliant, hopeful one.
To wrap up quoting, let’s turn to one of those supposedly lazy/useless/entitled millennials whom people love to heap scorn on, a cliche that needs exterminating asap:
“The laziest way to create meaning in your life is to find an enemy.” Kyla Scanlon
Kyla Scanlon is mid 20s and she is exactly right. I’ve catalogued this list not to create a different enemy, but to point out the consequences of designating one. Sure, it makes life easier, but the world is a lot more complex than that, and besides, when that enemy is the world’s most critical fuel supply, maybe you’d better rethink your premises.
There are many ways to fight for “the environment.” I put this phrase in quotations because we are actually quite far from agreeing on what that actually means. “The environment” – an environment – will always be here. It is a thing independent of our existence. So the fight for “the environment” is kind of nonsensical as a framework to start.
Do we want “the environment” as it could be, that is, more or less free of the mark of humans? That ain’t gonna happen. There are 8 billion of us. Next.
Do we want “the environment” free of pollutants? That’s almost impossible to envision, but worth working to optimize. We can reduce pollution, we can reduce spills, we can reduce waste.
I’m not being pedantic, I’m getting to a point. What has come to dominate the fight “for the environment” is the fight against CO2 (and lately, methane). It is clear from above that if that is the axis on which the battle is fought, the casualty will be much of humanity. The fuel system we’ve developed over the last century is the only thing keeping us all alive. It is a complex Rube-Goldberg machine that works, albeit imperfectly.
May this basket of crap above at least get us thinking about the victims of forces way beyond their control, and also to think about the single flower growing in that fertilizer – the correct take that there are ways to make progress while feeding everyone, to make “the environment” cleaner and stronger while building a lot of necessary stuff – but it takes work, and not blame.