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"The pitfalls of selective sensory disability" by Irina Slav substack --- (...Have some grins with the authoritarian clownshows)

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The pitfalls of selective sensory disability
Sep 2

This week began with the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen celebrating the early filling of gas storage facilities across Europe. The 80% target set for end-October was hit early! Europe now has enough gas for the winter! Except it doesn’t.

“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen celebrated the milestone on Monday, telling an audience at an energy conference in Denmark that the reserves hit an average of 80%, a target the EU had aimed to reach by Nov. 1,” Bloomberg wrote on Monday.

A paragraph later the report noted that “Gas storage helps absorb supply shocks and provides around 25% to 30% of the fuel consumed in winter. With bigger reserves, European nations are slightly better placed to face a further supply cut as Gazprom starts unexpected maintenance on the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday.”

On Thursday, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson confirmed the good news about gas in storage. Interestingly, neither official has spoken a word about the bill that comes with those full gs caverns. Let me mention it again: it is ten times higher than the EU’s usual annual gas bill. Must have slipped their attention, I’m sure.

Also this week we learned that Germany’s Economy Minister, Robert Habeck, finds the fact that companies are closing because of excessive energy bills alarming.

“It’s not good news, because it can mean that the industries in question aren’t just being restructured but are experiencing a rupture — a structural rupture, one that is happening under enormous pressure,” Habeck said, as quoted by the Financial Times.

He can bet his stubble it’s not good news. It’s actually not news at all. It was easy to see shutdowns coming months ago, if you were willing to see, of course.

There’s also a comical element to Habeck’s selective blindness, too. In the same FT report, the author quotes the head of the biggest business lobby group in the country, the BDI, as saying that industry gas consumption in Germany had fallen by 21% in July from a year ago.

“But that’s often not to do with efficiency gains, but with a dramatic decline in output,” Siegfried Russwurm said. “It is not a success, but the expression of a massive problem.”

Remember how many times Habeck celebrated Germany’s shrinking gas dependence on Russia and its dependence on gas in general? Whoever could’ve thought prohibitive prices can have the same effect as consumption efficiency? Naturally, the cost is not being talked about. This has become impolite, I imagine.

Incidentally, did you hear about the day-long queue for coal in Poland? One of the biggest coal producers in Europe still needs Russian imports it can’t get because it’s better than importing coal from the Devil. Oh, and Poland’s asking Germany for 1.3 trillion euro in war reparations. Second World War, that is. Talk about solidarity.

Across the Atlantic, a governor just stepped outside the green line and will probably pay for it. Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt has dared declare that his state does not need the renewable tax credits that the most unfortunately named act in recent U.S. history is giving states to motivate more renewables.

“Do those federal tax credits tip the scale? Absolutely. There’s going to be all kinds of industries that pop up to chase those tax credits and those dollars,” Stitt told the FT in an interview. “But if you ask me do I think we need those tax credits, no I don’t.”

I don’t know about you but I find such straightforward honesty simply deplorable. It is also potentially dangerous. People have been making money off these tax credits for years. What if someone important hears Stitt? Worse, what if someone hears him and understands what he’s saying? The fallout could be devastating.

Speaking of hearing, in the UK, the “Don’t Pay” movement appears to be gathering momentum although 130,000 supporters sounds a bit discouraging for a nation of more than 67 million. Yet it is a good sign that at least some humans are prepared, when faced with selective deafness and blindness, to react in a healing, so to speak, way.

Speaking of selective disability it’s worth noting politicians are not the only ones vulnerable to it. Take a look at this survey from Consumer Reports, graciously shared with me by friend who knows about my weakness for EVs. According to this survey, EVs are overall less reliable than ICE cars. I know, it cannot be but there it is. And that’s not the most interesting part.

Here’s the most interesting part: “In all cases, the important point is not just that these problems occur, but that they occur at a higher rate than in comparable internal-combustion vehicles. Despite that, CR found high rates of owner satisfaction, indicating that many EV owners aren't too worried about reliability issues.”

As I read this report for the first time last night, I’m afraid I inadvertently coined a word for this sort of car owners. The word is greenbies and if someone has already thought of it first it just goes to show that convergent evolution is alive and well despite rising carbon dioxide emissions. The benign greenbie apocalypse is in motion and no amount of water leaks and power failures can stop it. A copper shortage, on the other hand, might do the trick.

Back to Europe, Brussels is looking for ways to rein in gas prices, including by imposing price caps. Price caps are the new black this autumn season. Sanctions were all the rage in spring, now it’s time for caps. There’s absolutely no link between the two, of course.

The Commission is promising a structural reform of the EU energy market, decoupling gas prices from electricity prices and telling member states to impose windfall taxes on energy firms. There’s also an idea, voiced by the EC’s President, to couple electricity pries with the price(s?) of renewable energy.

According to one analyst at ICIS cited by the FT in a story on the topic, “If it was me, I’d really be focusing my energy on the gas supply part of this equation and not ripping up a 20- to 30-year-old market.”

The analyst, William Peck, also said that price caps would only stimulate more gas demand. “That’s the exact opposite of what we needed to be doing.”

In case this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same thing analysts said about fuel subsidies as oil prices surged earlier this year. Funnily enough, a new IEA report out this week showed that financial support for oil and gas had almost doubled… last year. The week’s been a parade of bad news for the transition, I’m afraid.

The latest blow came from a Honda executive who dared say that EVs will never be as cheap as ICE cars as long as they keep using lithium-ion batteries. Of course, one can attribute the statement to Honda’s decision to invest in solid-state batteries but one must then also ask oneself why it would do that when there’s perfectly well developed lithium-ion battery technology out there. Questions abound.

Meanwhile, we are seeing the consequences of selective sensory disability in California, where drivers were this week told to — hold on to your pants — not charge their EVs because the grid is strained. This happens just a week after the state practically mandated EV-only sales from 2035. It couldn’t have gone better if they’d timed the two announcements.

Consequences are bubbling up in Europe, as well. A report by risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft has warned that the risk of civil unrest is rising in 101 out of 198 countries surveyed, including Germany, the Ukraine, and, shockingly to me, Switzerland.

Imagine how bad things must have become for the Swiss to become disgruntled. I may have slipped into stereotypical thinking here, for which I apologise, but Switzerland has earned a long-standing reputation as a fortress of calm, hasn’t it?

To end on a musical note:   Blue Oyster Cult - (Don't Fear) The Reaper (Audio)

[from the band's 1976 album Agents of Fortune.]

Edited by Tom Nolan

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