What's going on?
A series of European countries announced in the last week that they’re turning to coal to replace Russian natural gas.
What does this mean?
The EU has emergency steps in place to respond to a falling supply of gas, including energy-saving measures and prioritizing which industries get dibs. But those measures are a drop in the ocean now that Russia has slashed capacity of the Nord Stream 1 – one of the main pipelines between Russian and Europe – by nearly two-thirds, sending European gas prices up 50% since it pulled the trigger last week. Russia, for its part, says the move is down to “technical issues”, but technically the issue is probably Europe’s ongoing support for Ukraine.
So with officials worried that Russia could cut supplies even more going into winter, some member nations are taking action: Germany and Austria just announced they’d be firing up previously defunct coal plants, the Netherlands said it’s planning to rewrite restrictive laws on its plants, and countries like Italy are expected to follow suit (tweet this).
Why should I care?
Zooming in: Europe asks for patience.
Europe is clearly prioritizing present demand over the future climate for now, but the region’s green ambitions have been amped up by the conflict: it’s aiming to invest more in renewables, as well as streamline regulations to accelerate the construction of wind farms and the like. That would kill two birds with one windmill, helping Europe both reach its climate goals and secure its energy independence.
The bigger picture: Stubborn steelmakers.
Steelmakers have no such qualms over the state of the planet, pushing ahead with the construction of coal-powered blast furnaces. But with the industry responsible for an estimated 8% of all fossil fuel emissions, it’s only a matter of time before governments step in. And according to one independent energy organization, that’s going to hurt: Global Energy Monitor said on Tuesday that the industry could be left with as much as $518 billion in useless assets.