MOSCOW, 14 Jan 2022, RUSSTRAT Institute.
On the last day of last year, the European Commission sensationally referred to peaceful atom and blue fuel as clean energy, worthy of receiving billions of euros of private investment every year.
This happened just a couple of months after the UN climate conference in Glasgow, in the decisions of which many read a death sentence to traditional sources of light and heat. And less than two weeks after the ultimatum of eco-activists led by an angry Greta Thunberg, who promised to “not forgive” Europe’s political leaders for such a betrayal of climate ideals.
Now the authorities of those EU countries that, like France, defend their nuclear projects or, like the German authorities, rely on gas, will have a hard time: the main lightning bolts of the global warming fighters will fly at them. The European Commission itself is also facing tough times, with lawsuits from the governments of greener Old World states like Austria and Luxembourg.
However, the fact is clear: Brussels has recognised that without gas and the atom, Napoleon’s “green deal” is simply untenable.
The European Commission is on the side of common sense
What exactly happened on December 31, 2021? On this day, the European Commission opened expert consultations on the draft of the so-called Additional Delegated Taxonomy Regulation. It suggests that gas and nuclear power should be considered “means of facilitating the transition to a future based primarily on renewable energy sources”. Thus, the atom and gas, albeit with reservations, get the right to life (and funding) in Europe for three decades to come.
The EU taxonomy is a classification of “environmentally sound” economic activities. It is designed to tell private investors who are obsessed with saving nature, in which projects and companies they should invest money and in which they should not. Trying to introduce a taxonomy from 2018, Brussels reasoned as follows: as soon as we draw up a green list, businesses will immediately rush to invest only in it – that’s how we will build clean energy.
“Great idea!” – said the EU members. After that, nine of them – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom – blocked the first version of the taxonomy in December 2019, fearing a negative impact on investment in their gas and nuclear projects.
Attempts to develop clear and understandable criteria for “environmental sustainability” continued for another year and a half. At one point, in March 2021, the already opposing side, represented by environmentalists who advised the European Commission, threatened to resign because of “anti-scientific”, that is, in its opinion, too soft requirements for a number of blue fuel projects. They were allegedly hindered by “behind-the-scenes lobbying”.
In the end, the EU Sustainable Financing Package was adopted with a creak on April 21, 2021 and entered into force on June 4. Initially, neither nuclear power nor natural gas made it into it, as their use “revealed a wide range of opinions” and required “in-depth evaluation”. However, it was stated that the signed paper is a living document, and it will be supplemented. And so it happened on December 31st.
From now on, EU countries can operate their existing nuclear power plants as if nothing had happened, provided that the disposal of waste does not harm the environment. Moreover, it is possible to build new nuclear power units if a construction permit is obtained before 2045. As for gas installations, the accepted criterion of “environmental sustainability” (no more than 100 g of carbon dioxide emissions per 1 kWh of energy produced) can be exceeded as much as 2.7-fold if they replace coal-fired generation.
An additional delegated regulation should be adopted by the European Commission this January, after brief consultations with experts. Then the European Parliament and the EU Council will have another four months to object to the innovation. However, it is unlikely that both instances will get the required number of votes to reject the law. Thus, the atom and gas are almost guaranteed to be included by the EU authorities in the category of “politically permissible” energy sources for the next three decades.
What is the reason for the unyielding position of the “conservatives”, primarily France and Eastern Europeans? Were they really so affected by the energy crisis of last year, when gas prices in Europe soared to sky-highs?
“We, Europeans, need the atom. And gas”
Of course, the turbulence in the spot gas market has had its say. And it was reinforced by the political weight of the Fifth Republic, which will head the EU Council from January 1, 2022. But what scared Europeans more than current prices was the prospect of trillions of dollars in investment that they would have to pay for their dream of “hydrocarbon neutrality” by the middle of the 21st century, if they gave up the atom and gas right now.
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, has just spoken out very aptly on this topic. At one time he worked as the French Minister of Finance, so he can count money. According to him, by themselves, renewable energy sources in the EU require about €65 billion of investment per year. But another €45 billion will have to be invested annually in related infrastructure. Compared to these figures, the modernisation of Europe’s nuclear power industry costs a mere penny – only about €20 billion of investment per year.
However, colossal financial expenses are only a small part of the problem of the “green transition”. Physics, which turns it into an extremely complex technological task, promises even more problems. Firstly, this process is very energy-intensive: to provide it, affordable and stable energy is also necessary. This, in particular, was stated by the ministers of ten EU countries led by France, who wrote an open letter to a number of newspapers in the Old World in October 2021 under the headline ” We, Europeans, need nuclear energy!”.
Secondly, those ”green” sources that the continent’s officials once relied on – solar panels and wind turbines – for purely technical reasons are not able to produce the necessary number of kilowatt-hours all year round for days on end. On a frosty winter night, there is no sun or wind, and no one really knows how to accumulate previously produced energy. This means that the “bundle” with renewable sources should include supporting capacities that can quickly compensate for the failures of “green” generation. Only gas “pickers” – stations running on blue fuel that burn it during rush hour – can do this efficiently.
Even Germany understands this, despite the growing eco-sentiment in German society. In any case, it is no accident that German Finance Minister Christian Lindner recently said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung that his country needs gas stations as a transition technology. He also added words of gratitude to the wise European Commission.
Thirdly, virtually all of the EU’s renewable energy sources produce electricity alone, but not heat. However, Europeans also have to heat their homes on long winter evenings! To do this with electricity, especially such a capricious one, is extremely expensive and unreliable, compared to the same gas or “taboo” coal.
It seems that the European Union has finally realised that without traditional generation, it cannot build “alternative energy” – no matter how much money is invested in it. It’s just that “nuclear” France and “gas” Germany have each found their own arguments to convince the most stubborn adherents of the “green transition”.
Weakening of the “green” diktat
There are other factors that speak in favour of traditional energy sources in Europe. For example, calling for the inclusion of nuclear power plants in the taxonomy, the ministers of ten countries mentioned above stated not only their relative independence from suppliers, but also the safety of all 126 European reactors, which provide 26% of the total electricity generation in the EU. As well as the complete lack of scientific evidence that nuclear energy causes more harm to human health or the environment than other sources. In fact, eco-activists clearly underperformed here with the “Chernobyl” horror stories.
But there is another argument that goes directly against the logic of the former “green” taxonomy of Brussels. “What makes you think that investors will race to invest in exactly what you think is right?” ask skeptics. “Money-hungry businessmen are not interested in clean energy at all, but in profit at any cost. And the dirtiest coal-fired power station, which regularly brings in profits, looks in their eyes an order of magnitude more attractive than all your bureaucratic incentives…”.
It remains to add that from the point of view of Russian interests, the rollback of Europeans from militant eco-positions is beneficial to Moscow for at least two reasons. The first is billions of dollars in additional revenue from the sale of blue fuel, which also promises geopolitical benefits, such as the certified Nord Stream 2.
The second reason is the weakening of ideological pressure from the “masters of discourse”, who by hook or crook force the world to adapt to the “global warming” agenda. Now it will be a little easier to resist this globalist dictate.