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German Energy Apocalypse Update II
Noted children’s book author Robert Habeck, who is somehow also the German Minister of the Economy, turns out to know very little about his job or the industries he proposes to regulate. His gas surcharge scheme, conceived to keep the importer Uniper solvent in the face of skyrocketing prices, has now imploded and must be redrafted. It has emerged that, under his defunct proposal, many businesses not in danger of insolvency would have had a claim on the funds. This is probably because the bill was co-authored by the major energy companies themselves. In an extremely awkward speech, Habeck admitted that the problems with the law reflected his own ignorance of the gas industry and its internal complexities.
Meanwhile, our lunatic Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who like Habeck also hails from the economic saboteur collective known as the Green Party, has spoken out against keeping our three remaining nuclear plants open beyond 2022. This would be “crazy” in her conception, because Germany has fought so long and invested so much in getting out of nuclear power. Sensible commentary on German affairs is often to be found only beyond our borders. As an editorial in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung puts it: “If the Federal Republic shuts down its last three nuclear power plants, this winter of all times, then the country is beyond all help.”
Indeed, electricity is looking increasingly scarce across the entire continent. German power futures for January 2023 surged more than threefold towards the end of last week, as planners directed all spare natural gas into winter reserves. Prices have since fallen somewhat, but the essential scarcity of energy remains. There looms a deep macroeconomic shock, which threatens not only to crush many private finances, but also to devastate large sectors of German industry. It seems increasingly possible that we’ll see measures like managed brown-outs, with bizarre shortages of everyday products like toilet paper, as manufacturing is scaled back. Electricity prices have finally come to the notice of our political class, who have promised to remedy the problem with regulatory tinkering that will do nothing, because the problem is not regulation but the simple unavailability of a key commodity. Unless they can conjure natural gas from the ether, the technocrats cannot help us.
The entire Eurozone, as well as the United Kingdom, faces the worst cost-of-living crisis in modern memory. Already the German savings ratio has collapsed due to inflation, and this is well in advance of the true price shocks to come. Ulf Kempfer, vice-president of the German Association of Municipalities and mayor of Kiel, gave an interview to Welt that sheds light on the practical measures that are being contemplated to reduce electricity usage. Assuming that Nord Stream 1 continues to operate at one-fifth capacity, German energy consumption will have to be reduced by at least 20%; if the Russians cut off all gas, which they may well do, we’ll face a 40% shortfall. Even the best case here is a catastrophe that turning off street lights will not remedy. The biggest savings are to be had in reducing indoor heating, and cutting back on the use of warm water, refrigerators, washing machines and computers. Municipal services and office buildings will probably have to be closed, though some facilities, like public libraries, may be kept open as a refuge for those unable to heat their homes.
German newspapers have special sections for “Corona” and “Ukraine,” and they continue to spread wanton hysteria about both. Over the looming energy crisis, meanwhile, there reigns an ominous silence. At best, the discussion is repeatedly drawn to side-issues, like Habeck’s dumb surcharge scheme, for no reporters will confront the scale of our coming privation. We like to think that technology has put fantastic distance between us and the scarcity our ancestors faced, but the truth is that we are one blackout away from the premodern world. If the lights go out, there are no health or emergency services, no ATMs, no running water, no technology, no long-distance communication, and very limited travel. It’s not unthinkable that large regions of Europe see these scenarios this winter.
In conclusion, some goats:
As long as there are developments, this will be a semi-regular series. Find Part 1 here.
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