This is a Google translated English version of the French original, posted with permission of the author, Samuel Furfari. The original text should be consulted in the event of any questionable auto-translate issues. (Editor’s note: Apologies for the uneven formatting in this post.)
According to the majority of European politicians and the media, we are in the process of switching from the old world of energy to that of energy transition. To think that a policy as crucial as energy policy can be summed up in the simplistic slogan “Save the planet” shows a lack of vision of how the world will work. To hope that the climate emergency can change everything quickly is naive, because the energy system’s unit of time is a decade at best.
The political energy transition also called decarbonization is a wishful thinking that will not come true for a series of reasons that we want to summarize in this forum. This statement will seem absurd as it goes against the grain of the dominant thought. A forum cannot demonstrate, but only alert. The reader can refer if he wishes to the demonstrations which can be found in about fifteen books and numerous forums.
- The demand for energy can only grow
Energy is life. Everything – absolutely everything – that we do uses energy. Even our food is a consumption of energy that our body needs to live. We learned in physics that energy is the same concept as work, that is, what moves a force (a weight). Unless you die of hunger, you have to work and therefore you need energy. In time, energy was provided by the force of animals or man. For cooking we used what is now called bioenergy, that is to say wood. Thanks to the energy revolution, we have completely changed the world. Today some who have never turned a piece of land with a spade advocate a return to “muscle energy”. It is their choice. It is respectable, as long as they don’t impose it.
It is estimated for the moment that there are 1.3 billion people in the world who do not have access to electricity, including 290 million in India. For cooking, 40% of the world’s population depends on renewable energies: green wood, charcoal, or dried dung. It burns, giving off toxic fumes that cause air pollution and premature death. There is an urgent need to electrify Africa as I wrote in a book in 2019.
Their search for quality of life and their galloping demographics induce an increase in energy consumption. The leaders of these countries – India in the lead – know this and have only one concern: to grow and therefore consume energy, the inexpensive energy that we ourselves have used to ensure our development: fossil and nuclear fuels. .
- The energy question was not born with decarbonation
The energy transition is not a new quest. What is new is to call it decarbonation, that is to say completely abandoning fossil fuels. After the Second World War, the period of economic growth and societal development allowed an extraordinary change in the quality of life of Europeans. It was abruptly stopped by the first oil crisis of 1973; the second in 1979 had a much stronger impact. To respond to a geopolitical oil shortage, the OECD has organized itself, in particular by creating the International Energy Agency and building up stocks of oil and petroleum products equivalent to 90 days of consumption. At the time, the idea of energy savings and “alternative energies” was launched as renewable energies were then called. It didn’t work out well. The real change was the arrival of nuclear power.
- Nuclear energy, the only real solution to the energy transition
After launching the ECSC, the Six Foreign Ministers of the founding countries met in Messina on June 1-2, 1955 to decide on the future of the Community. They decide to launch the creation of the Common Market and Euratom, that is to say the communitisation of civilian nuclear electricity. They understood that the future of this new community will require “abundant and cheap energy”. The Six are launching an energy transition that has never been equaled. Ambitious plans are implemented and when the oil crises erupt, the power plants arrive on time. This has enabled France to be the European leader in nuclear energy. (Joe Biden following Donald Trump ) are heading towards the electrification of the near future. But China does not rely solely on nuclear electricity.
- China bets on oil
In 2020, COVID virtually shut down the global economy. Yet, according to the International Energy Agency , oil consumption from 100 million barrels per day (Mb / d) in 2019 to 91.0 Mb / d has fallen by only 10%. It has already rebounded to 93.9 Mb / d in the first quarter of 2021 and is expected to reach 99.2 Mb / d in the fourth quarter of 2021. Why? Because the unloved oil remains inescapable. Fossil fuels are perceived in France and in the EU more generally as being of the past, whether because of the CO 2 emissions they generate, but also for the overwhelming perception that “there is no longer any petroleum ”.
During the oil crises just mentioned, oil reserves stood at 90 billion tonnes (Gt) and should have been exhausted in 2000; they are now 244 Gt and should be exhausted in 55 years. The same reasons that created the growth in reserves are still present today and even more affirmed: new technologies and new territories. I refer the reader to my many writings on the subject.
Moreover, China, which does not bother with the energy transition, is very active in appropriating oil reserves where it can. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is the arm of the Chinese Communist Party responsible for cooperating with large international companies and buying concessions abroad. Given its strategic importance, in December 2020 the Trump Administration added CNOOC to the “Communist Chinese Military Companies” blacklist.
Sanctions on China and Iran are pushing the two countries to a $ 400 billion deal, Forbes said. Iran needs to urgently sell oil so as not to suffocate, and China needs oil for economic growth to achieve the Communist Party’s goal of being the world’s leading power by 2050.
- China relies on natural gas
Oil is essential, but the surprise of energy is natural gas. This energy is very low polluting, very abundant, available, cheap and multi-purpose. New countries are becoming natural gas exporters, thus competing with historical exporters (Russia, Norway, Algeria, Qatar, Indonesia, etc.). The United States can export source rock (shale) gas so competitively priced that it is trying to ban the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. Australia is becoming an important exporting country for Southeast Asia, with so much gas reserves available. Mozambique, the second poorest country in the world, is also preparing to export gas from its Rovuma field, in which the Chinese state-owned CNPC has invested. Closer to us, what is happening in the Levant is a good illustration of the current revolution in natural gas. Israel, which did not have primary energy, is already an exporter of gas to Jordan and is preparing to export much more. RT Erdoğan’s Turkey does not want to be interested in sardines.” but wants to be part of this maritime space .
Natural gas when it is liquefied (LNG) transported by LNG carrier becomes an energy that looks like oil. Freed from the constraint of the tube that links a producer to a consumer and vice versa, LNG allows fluidity and dynamism in a growing gas market.
China has understood this well since each of its maritime provinces has at least one regasification terminal. Its 28 facilities provide it with energy and competitive security since the country can draw on many countries. This is not the case of Turkmenistan (4 th world reserves) which hoped to sell large quantities of gas to its neighbor. In addition, LNG arrives in the industrial East while Turkmen arrives in the West, where there are difficulties with the Uyghurs and where industrialization is little developed and will undoubtedly remain so for a long time because of the difficulties. with local populations.
Note that Russia has understood very well this paradigm shift brought about by LNG. Since 2017, gas from the Yamal peninsula in northern Siberia has been supplying Asian markets, particularly China. This $ 27 billion project was carried out by the Russian private company Novatek with Total Energy (which cannot even carry out exploration projects in France). A similar project is underway in the same area, this time with the addition of two Chinese companies. These great maneuvers on the natural gas front indicate that this energy will be used at least throughout this century. The boom is everywhere, since recently even Burma, Ghana and Senegal have acquired LNG terminals. The year of the Covid – 2020 – saw LNG consumption increase by 1 to 2%while oil fell 9% and coal 4%. China has already placed its gas pawns.
- Chinese coal explodes CO 2 emissions
Between 2018 and 2019, the growth in Chinese CO 2 emissions represented 73% of France’s total annual emissions. The Communist Party has announced the creation of 250 GW of new coal-fired power stations (the EU has a total of 150 GW). They will continue their economic growth – and therefore energy – because they do not want to end up like the USSR. That is, they do not care about CO 2 emissions . Their popular diplomacy is there to deceive the naive who still believe that we will reduce global CO2 emissions.
They have increased worldwide by 58% since the adoption of the United Nations climate convention in 1992. Why? Because energy is life and states that prioritize the well-being of their populations must above all offer their citizens abundant and cheap energy. It is their right. These states will not change their energy strategy based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy one iota. Time is running out to talk about India, but it suffices to think that China and India together consume nearly two-thirds of the world’s coal to measure the extent that there is between European and therefore French policies and those countries that are racing ahead.
- The new security of energy supply
The 2000 Green Paper “ Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply ” raised concerns about the growth of its energy dependence. 20 years later, it has not worsened thanks to the decrease in consumption following the restructuring of the former socialist countries, the outsourcing of the manufacturing industry and large industries such as aluminum , decrease in coal imports, energy savings and the development of wood energy, the main renewable energy (wind and solar energy only represent 2.5%primary energy). And then, above all, the fears that were raised 20 years ago about the lack of oil and gas reserves were swept away by the facts, all these reserves are abundant, varied and available. So everything is going well? No, a new danger has arisen: the rise in power of China or to be more precise of the Chinese Communist Party.
They are everywhere, invading all spheres of energy in the world. The Washington Time estimates that in the fall of 2020 Beijing carried out nearly $ 17 billion in investment transactions in the American energy sector. China, which is already a minority shareholder in the Energie du Portugal company (80% of Portugal’s electricity), wanted to monopolize all of the shares; Donald Trump opposed. Helpful idiots in the environmental lobby who want to develop electric vehicles and wind turbines do not realize that they are going to depend on the Chinese Communist Party which controls the market for the many materials needed to produce batteries and wind turbine magnets, because the market of cobalt is controlled by China. The European Commission, which intends to create an “Airbus of batteries”, should first ask itself the question of the availability of lithium. Everyone also knows that solar panels come from China. It is less well known, but China is also investing in coal-fired power stations in the Balkans; this “Chinese” electricity could arrive in the EU.
The EU urgently needs to wake up from its green torpor. The rest of the world does not believe in modern renewable energies, because they are expensive , otherwise it would have been necessary to have three European directives – in 2001, 2009 and 2018 – to oblige their production; moreover, since the obligation of 2009, the price of electricity in France has increased by 54%. In addition, they only generate a fifth of the time, and can therefore only develop where there are already thermal and nuclear power plants.
If the EU still wants to count a little in the march of the world, it should abandon its decarbonization policy and its hydrogen utopia and do like other countries: use abundant and cheap energies and stop being obsessed with CO 2 . The EU naively thinks that the Chinese Communist Party will follow it, while fueled by millions of engineers it prepares the domination of the world by energy. We are no longer in 1974 when Colonel Gaddafi was trying to bring the OECD into line by controlling the oil market. The danger today is the geopolitics of Chinese energy.
Samuele Furfari’s latest work is “ Energy. Everything will change tomorrow? Analyze the past, understand the future ”
About the Author Doctor of applied sciences and engineer, Samuele Furfari has been teaching energy geopolitics at the Free University of Brussels since 2003. He was a European civil servant for 36 years at the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission. He is president of the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists.