Friday, July 01, 2022

Austrian Chancellor talks of 'extraordinary times' as country prepares to reopen coal power station after Russia's gas threat

At the Mellach coal power plant in southern Austria, spider webs have taken over the conveyor belts, and plants and flowers have sprung up around the vast lot that once stored coal.

The plant, Austria's last coal-fuelled power station, was closed in the spring of 2020, but now the government ' nervous that Russia may cut its crucial gas deliveries further ' has decided to get the site ready again in case it is needed.

"I never would have imagined that we would restart the factory," Peter Probst, a 55-year-old welder, told AFP during a visit to the plant. "It's really sad to be so dependent on gas."

Europe had been trying to move away from coal in the fight against climate change.

However, as Russia has cut gas deliveries following sanctions, the West has imposed on it for the war in Ukraine, European countries are turning back to coal.

Today, the Mellach plant's white and red chimney stands out amid fields of corn and pumpkins, the city of Graz in the distance.

Inside, the walls are black, and coal dust clings to the doors and railings.

Some 450,000 tonnes of coal were stored at the plant before its closure as Austria's conservative-Greens coalition aimed to have all electricity come from renewable resources by 2030.

Site manager Christof Kurzmann-Friedl says the plant operated by supplier Verbund can be ready again in "about four months" ' just in time to help tackle any gas shortages in winter.

On Monday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer insisted that the plant would only go online if necessary, while Austria holds on to its goal to reduce emissions.

"It's really an emergency measure," the conservative told foreign correspondents at a briefing. "It's really something that shows how extraordinary our times are -- We must prepare for any eventuality."

The 230-megawatt power plant would take over from the nearby gas-fired plant, also operated by Verbund, which currently supplies heating to Graz's 300,000 inhabitants, according to Mr Kurzmann-Friedl.

IEA warns Russia may cut gas to Europe

Russia may cut off gas to Europe entirely as it seeks to bolster its political leverage amid the Ukraine crisis.

He warned, however, that the site must still be readied, hooking up all the equipment again, in addition to hiring qualified personnel and, above all, finding enough coal.

Before, the coal mainly came from mines in Poland's Silesia region, which the Polish government is aiming to shut.

Because coal prices have risen by as much as three times since 2020, the power produced by the plant will also be more expensive, Mr Kurzmann-Friedl said.

Criticism has already flared, with the opposition Social Democrats slamming the decision to reactivate the coal plant as "an act of desperation by the Greens".

"Will the next step be the reactivation of Zwentendorf?" the opposition asked, referring to the country's only nuclear power plant.

The Alpine nation of nine million people has been fiercely anti-nuclear with an unprecedented vote in 1978 against nuclear energy that prevented the plant from ever opening.


EU to end combustion engine sales

The EU has approved ending the sale of vehicles with combustion engines by 2035 in Europe, the 27-member bloc announced on Wednesday, in a bid to reduce CO2emissions to net zero.

The proposal was raised last July, and this decision will mean a de facto halt to sales of petrol and diesel vehicles and a complete shift to electric engines in the EU from 2035.

The measure is intended to help achieve the continent 's climate objectives, in particular carbon neutrality by 2050.

At the request of countries including Germany and Italy, the EU-27 also agreed to consider a future green light for the use of alternative technologies such as synthetic fuels or plug-in hybrids if they can achieve the complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg also approved a five-year extension of the exemption from CO2 ­obligations granted to "niche " manufacturers, or those producing fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year, until the end of 2035. The clause, referred to as the "Ferrari amendment ", will benefit luxury brands.

"This is a big challenge for us" said French Minister of Ecological Transition Agnes Pannier-Runacher. But she said it was a "necessity " in the face of competition from China and the US.


Biden and Oil: Destroy America in Order to Save It

During the Democratic primaries, Biden ran on the promise that he would end all fossil fuels during his tenure. In 2019-2020 that bluster seemed easy demagoguery at a time of near-record low gas and diesel prices. The American people shrugged at such utopianism since they often were filling up their cars for less than $50.

Biden 's video clips from the primary campaign now seem surreal, as he tried to out-green Bernie Sanders in boasting about what has now become his own self-created energy disaster.

Biden monotonously promised at rallies, such as they were, that he would cancel pipelines, stop new federal leasing to oil and gas companies, persuade lenders to restrict loans to them, put the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve off limits, and embrace the green new deal. Those were certainly campaign boasts that he has followed up on.

His environmental czar John Kerry has just insulted Americans by lecturing them that there is no need to pump more gas and oil to reduce gas prices that are well over $6 a gallon in many of the Western states. The billionaire Kerry exudes Antoinette disdain for the muscular classes, a hubris that now characterizes the elite rich leadership of the Left in general.

Kerry and his progressive ilk make no effort to disguise that they feel the credentialed such as themselves, the wealthy, and the progressive enjoy the birthright to fly private, to be limousined, and to bounce between multiple energy-hungry mansions. Those compensations are all necessary, to allow them to focus on the divine task of directing and herding the unthinking and blinkered chumps, dregs, crazies and clingers to do what is for their own good'now most recently defined as paying more than $6 a gallon for gas.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also reassures the country that there is no reason to pump more oil and gas. Instead, she says, we just need to refine more. At her press conferences, she reads all her answers from prepared notes. But apparently Jean-Pierre's twenty-something press preppers were oblivious that the United States, thanks to hard-left green opposition, has not built a major refinery since 1976, back when there were 110 million fewer Americans.

Jean-Pierre has no idea why she cannot now and will never in the future answer a question about fossil fuels honestly. She knows that Left for now got what it wanted. Since January 2021 it has all but destroyed the idea of American energy self-sufficiency.

Think of the mindset: the Left for decades deliberately restricts refinery capacity; then when the public demands it increase oil production that it has curtailed, it complains that increased pumping would do no good because'there is not enough refinery capacity. Yet Biden remains shocked that his long-sought victory to make fossil fuels unaffordable is despised by the American people, whose votes he now needs to stay in power.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talks of abortion, racist freeway overpasses, mass transit'almost anything other than strapped commuters on clogged roads watching their livelihoods melt away by staggering fuel and energy costs.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm calls "hilarious " any suggestion she might think out of the box to find ways to encourage more energy production. Granholm is right only in that she could not say or do a thing that any CEO or foreign head of state would take seriously.

So, her administration is panicking that its prior arrogance has insulted, enraged, and alienated 60-70 percent of the country. But political reality to such ideologues does not mean that they will pump or refine more oil. We all know they prefer high gas prices and only object to politically damaging steep climbs before midterm or general elections'rather than, say, continuous dollar-a-gallon increases every six months to a year.

So how does Biden square his circle of continuing or accelerating policies that ensure high gas prices while trying desperately to lower fuel prices before elections?

The Biden people have three strategies.

One is denial and a resort to the blame game. Vladimir Putin supposedly caused the American gas crisis. Take away the Ukraine war, and gas would be what it was during the Trump Administration. But that is not even half-true given the fact that gas and diesel prices had already reached $4.60 a gallon in California, for example, before the Russo-Ukrainian war had begun.

No matter. The Biden finger-pointing strategy is a shotgun approach with many targets other than the president 's own deliberate efforts to raise fuel prices. Besides the "Putin price hike, " Biden blasts "greedy " oil companies that are price-gouging Americans.

Perhaps. But if so, why were they not doing that before Biden entered office? Did corporate CEOs love Donald Trump and hate Joe Biden?

Why do some other corporations, for example the Left 's beloved Apple, earn higher profit margins on their sales than do the large oil companies?

OK'if Putin and rapacious CEOs are not to blame for the Biden fuel disaster, then how about "refiners "?

These villains supposedly have all the oil they need, but they strangely refuse to speed up turning crude into gasoline. Again, the Left wants something now that, for political purposes, it had sought to destroy in the past for political purposes.

To learn why there are now supposedly too few refineries, just review clips from the 2020 Democratic primary debates in which a dozen candidates attacked one another for supposedly appeasing the oil companies that were producing too much fossil fuels.

The second Biden strategy is to talk green, but to find ways other than pumping more oil to reduce gas prices before the midterms. Biden has announced that Vladimir Putin is a thug, a killer, and should be removed. But his hostility never stopped him earlier from beseeching Putin to pump more oil that he is now currently selling for nearly two-thirds below market prices to China and India.

Biden has in the recent past blasted the Saudi royal family for its illiberality. Yet now he is begging another former favorite target Mohammed bin Salman to help his administration by driving down the price of American gasoline down before the midterms.

Biden perhaps feels more comfortable similarly supplicating the nightmarish and failed nations of Venezuela and Iran. He is perfectly willing through such appeasement to lose any deterrent leverage over such odious regimes for the short-term gain of avoiding a November electoral disaster.

Yet do Biden and his EPA experts believe that Iran or Russia are better stewards of Mother Earth than are U.S. oil companies subject to the Environmental Protection Agency? In our shared global village do they really believe that a fungible barrel of oil is pumped and refined under greener protocols in Iran or Russia than in Texas or North Dakota?

But this second strategy of having others produce oil that we will not is also doomed for failure. Follow the Biden logic, incoherent as it is:

I, Joe Biden, hate Russia and Saudi Arabia. Some in my government tell me I am supposed to despise Iran and Venezuela. But I want all four nations as a favor to me personally to increase their dirty fossil fuel production that I certainly don 't wish to stoop to do here in my own country'all in order to keep my presidency temporarily viable, by appeasing the gas-guzzling mindless middle class while bowing to my hallowed green base.

That smug incoherence is welcome schadenfreude to all our enemies.

The third Biden strategy has now turned to the strategic petroleum reserve.

When oil was cheap, Trump'to much criticism'tried to top the reserve off with cheap petroleum. And for the most part, he did.

Now Biden is draining the reserve in order to lower prices for a crisis that he created in large part by reducing U.S. production and eliminating any chances to expand it over his tenure.

Again, consider the twisted logic: the administration does not wish to increase the supply of hated petroleum, but needs more of it. So apparently if nearly 700 million barrels of oil have already been pumped out of the earth and back into four vast underground caverns near the Gulf, then repumping the black goo back out is not the same sin as pumping fresh goo from underground.

The idea of the strategic petroleum reserve grew out of the Arab boycotts of the United States in the early '70s and the anti-Western power of the OPEC cartel. The reserve was an effort to ensure that foreign entities during crises could not blackmail or leverage the United States for political concessions. It was also designed to offer a temporary buffer in times of natural or manmade crises such as war or devastating earthquakes, fires, or storms.

But Biden 's policies have ensured that bad foreign actors will and can hold the United States over the proverbial oil barrel and receive concessions in the bargain. And our current oil shortage did not arise from a foreign war or tsunami, but from a deliberate policy to curtail oil production to force a more rapid transition to battery-powered transportation and mass transit.

So, Biden is tapping a public reserve to aid his own private political survival, not as a result of a collective assault on U.S. energy independence. In other words, he is putting America at risk to drain a reserve intended for purposes other than his own reelection efforts.

All these unhinged and desperate measures will fail.

So, what will end the Biden-created oil crisis? Only one consideration, and it is a medicine worse than the disease: the Biden-created recession or depression.

That is, Biden 's hyperinflation and ensuing stagflation are already beginning to result in reduced spending, as his printed money runs out and spiraling prices are beginning to exceed even the 2021-22 infusion of new trillions of dollars. No wonder we are currently in an era of negative economic growth.

But given Biden 's discouragement of productive industries, subsidies for labor nonparticipation, quantitative easing, historic low-interest rates, and a growing global recession we are likely to see continued negative economic growth, higher unemployment, and closed businesses.

In other words, 1970s-style stagflation will radically curb consumer demand as the targeted middle class has less to spend, and, of course, drives less. Eventually stagflation will lead to severe recession and ultimately to crashes in current prices.

The Left 's reaction to that national tragedy will be interesting since it seemed to love the COVID lockdown, and not just because the devastating quarantine sparked radical changes in voting laws and an aggrandizement of government power, as well as the end of Donald Trump.

The shelter-in-place mandates bridled the middle class and slowed the economy'and thus gave us desirable reduced carbon emissions.

For the left-wing green ideologue, a recession in the age of oil is as welcome as $7 a gallon gas. Or perhaps economic stagnation of the middle class is more fortuitous, a "never let a crisis go to waste, " since it will mean a general reduction in fossil-fuel energy use well beyond transportation as millions of Americans become inert.

In sum, under the Biden energy logic, we must destroy the American economy in order to save it.


How Green policies make the South China sea a flashpoint

It would be a mistake to view the South China Sea dispute between China and Japan as a simple territorial gripe over lines on a water-logged map.

The two nations have long been hostile, and China 's threats last year to "˜nuke it ' if Japan allies itself with Taiwan during a Chinese "˜totally peaceful unification ' attack hasn 't exactly settled the region 's nerves. Neither country can escape their shared geography involving expanses of open water which they rely upon for trade. This has seen many international incidents arise from ships bumping into each other after "˜accidentally ' violating shared spaces.

Today, the problem runs all the way to the seabed.

There is a "˜green-rush ' on rare earths pushed by the so-called "˜climate friendly ' technologies of solar, wind, and battery power that require a menagerie of minerals to harvest "˜free ' energy.

The world 's main motivation for tearing apart the sea floor is the pursuit of electric vehicles. Far from "˜loving the oceans ', the production of ecars is fuelling the exploration and mining of previously protected waters. The damage is estimated to be huge, permanent, and result in the extinction of species.

Rare earths are not "˜rare ' as the name suggests, they are "˜diffuse ' meaning that small quantities require enormous amounts of mining and are often difficult to separate from their parent rocks. Ore extraction is a messy business that involves toxic chemicals, scary-looking waste piles, and "“ uh "“ smelting with "˜evil ' coal.

Global mining companies have been eager to abide by United Nations regulations against fossil fuel mining because it creates a market crunch, elevating their previously worthless mineral holdings into priceless assets. Some are selling for 600 per cent of their previous value.

Yes, everyone is "˜going green '. Green "“ as in money.

There is nothing virtuous about a mining company that promotes renewables technology. They have simply decided to increase the value of cheap minerals through market manipulation. By embracing short-lived renewables first, mining companies can flog their entire mineral catalogue. When the world exhausts those and returns to fossil fuels or uranium deposits, they get to sell them too. If mining companies skipped straight to building nuclear plants, the rest of their mineral holdings would be worthless.

China has played an even smarter game. Not only do they profit off their global domination in rare earths resources cornering 95 per cent of the industry, they manufacture and distribute renewables to the West giving Beijing dominance over foreign energy infrastructure. Australia 's energy grid will have a comforting "˜made in China ' sticker on the side. China also put the time, money, and ruthless effort into shifting rare earths mining assets from developing nations into Beijing 's portfolio via its Belt and Road Initiative.

If there were any Roman generals left, they 'd be side-eyeing the whole thing muttering, "˜I think it might be a trap. '

How many wars in history were fought over resources? Now imagine there 's an Eden-like frontier of precious metals laying beneath the waves in hotly contested or shared regions --

These minerals tend to be distributed along active volcanic fissures, laying on the sea-bed as polymetallic nodules. The richest of these can be found at the Pacific Ring of Fire tectonic plate boundaries where the movement of the Pacific Plate creates the famous volcanism stretching from New Zealand in the south, up through Indonesia, cutting across Japan, arching along the coast of Russia and Canada before following the West Coast of the Americas all the way down to the bottom of South America. There are similar hot beds beneath India and around the base of Africa.

This has turned the world 's oceans and seas into open-cut mines worth trillions. International waters are thought to contain more value than the combined mineral wealth of Earth 's continents.

Deep sea rare earths mining isn 't much better than the pirate era that accompanied the rush for South American gold. There are rules, but they are loose due to the difficulty of monitoring operations thousands of metres below the surface. If a mining company destroys an ancient relic or sacred site, people scream immediately at the pile of rubble "“ but who sees the fragile ecosystems and underwater paradises being ripped apart? No one. This makes it an attractive business for mining companies.

Most of the regulation is performed through the "˜autonomous ' United Nations body ISA (International Seabed Authority) based out of Jamaica created under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. They are not a protection organisation and do not work to prevent deep sea mining. Instead, they attempt to "˜mitigate its damage ' by surveying locations and handing out licences to mining corporations. They are also meant to protect deep sea biodiversity, particularly for ecosystems that we know very little about.

The current Secretary General, Michael W. Lodge, was previously questioned in the press about a potential conflict of interest with mining operations, which he denies. He also has a biography at the World Economic Forum and is listed as a member who last penned an article in 2014 demonstrating the value of operations, writing:

"˜Japanese geologists estimate that a single 2.3 km2 patch of seafloor might contain enough rare earth materials to sustain global demand for a year. '

ISA appears to have no problem handing out plenty of mining licences to China despite the communist nation being recognised as the biggest environmental vandal in the world "“ especially when it comes to waterways. Most of the contracts are specifically for copper, cobalt, and other minerals found in electric batteries. ISA have stated their support for deep sea mining if it props up the renewables industry which fits with their position as part of the UN 's 2030 Sustainable Agenda.

Not everyone is happy, with marine geologist Sandor Mulsow who was, between 2013-19, head of the Office of Environmental Management and Mineral Resources at ISA, quoted in the La Times saying:

"˜The ISA is not fit to regulate any activity in international waters. It is like asking the "¯wolf to take care of the sheep. '

China has made itself a world leader in deep sea rare earths mining, with projects and ships all over the Pacific region.

For those wondering why Beijing was so keen to form a close alliance with the Solomon Islands, it may have something to do with their unexplored zinc, gold, phosphate, lead, and nickel deposits "“ or maybe it is the oil, gas, and deep sea mining in the parameters laid out in the draft maritime cooperation agreement and the Blue Economy Memorandum of Understanding. The Shortland Basin, Guadalcanal, and Iron Bottom Sound all promise fossil fuels in a startling contradiction to the Solomon 's Islands claims that they chose "˜China ' to help them with Climate Change fears.

The "˜blue economy ' is a polite way of saying, "˜yep, we 're going to rip apart the environmentally fragile ocean floor for profit '. Not only is the sea floor destroyed and its creatures sucked up, but the surrounding area is drowned in a thick layer of silt.

China 's progress in this field was discussed by Liu Feng, secretary general of COMRA (China Ocean Mineral Resource R&D Association), who was interviewed by NewsChina:

"˜Since the late 1980s, China started working on exploration contract applications, and it was registered as one of the seven pioneer investors in 1991, which indicated that COMRA was required to offer half of its surveyed area of 300,000km2 [ -- ] of valuable seabed mining resource area to the ISA as a reserved area [for ISA enterprises or other developing countries].

"˜By 2001, we were able to process one ton of nodules per day and successfully attain metallic elements, including copper cobalt, nickel and manganese.

"˜China gained another four additional contracts from the ISA for all three seabed mining resources across the Pacific and Indian oceans [polymetallic nodules found on abyssal plains, polymetallic sulphides at hydrothermal vents, and ferromanganese crusts on seamounts and ridges]. '

Returning to the contested waters between Japan and China.

Japan has always been at a serious geopolitical disadvantage. As a densely populated volcanic island chain, it is short on mineral and energy resources. It is a net importer of coal, gas, wood, iron, and copper along with a shrinking allocation of farmland. To compensate, it became a manufacturer of high-end electronics, cars, steel, and military parts.

However, despite the barren surface, the seabed surrounding Japan is ridiculously rich in minerals. The mud alone is guessed to contain 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides or between 500 and 780 years of supply. Although Japan is a small nation by land, they have the 8th largest Exclusive Economic Zone -- or 4,470,000km2 of potential mining exploration. There could be an astonishing 40 trillion cubic feet of methane clathrate and 400 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Japanese law is currently being revised to properly regulate what will no doubt be the country 's first mining boom in centuries.

The good news for Japan is that most of their wealth lies in the deep shelf to the east, away from China. The bad news is that the Sea of Japan contains petroleum, natural gas, and magnetite. The worse news is that the extremely rich mining area off Okinawa is well and truly within China's greedy field of vision.

Does this destroy the fragile ecosystems at the bottom of the ocean? Absolutely. As David Santillo, a Greenpeace research fellow, said:

"˜In all cases, seabed mining will, by its very nature, destroy species and habitats within the mining zones. There is no justification for a "˜gold rush ' to mine the seabed; instead we should be focusing on making smarter and more efficient use of the materials we already have. '

Despite everyone 's pledges to "˜climate change ', the pursuit of Net Zero policies and "˜ethical cars ' has sparked a mining rush that threatens the Earth 's most important but least understood ecosystem. Nations desperate to secure their share of rare earths might even spark a catastrophic global conflict.

The hunt for rare earths is all set to finally tip geopolitics off the deep end.




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