Yesterday may have been the most instructive day ever to understand the current international situation involving natural gas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his State of the Nation address, bragged about “invincible” missiles that could carry nuclear warheads. He showed videos of missiles raining down on Florida. As he did so much of Europe was battered by two weather storms called “Storm Emma” and the “Beast from the East”. Today is the coldest spring day in UK recorded history (I guess they consider March 1 spring over there). Unfortunately they may have no heat. Britain’s National Grid warned yesterday that it did not have enough natural gas to supply the country.
Britain has a lot of shale gas potential but it has not developed it, running into the same environmental objections that bedevil most of Europe. We might have been able to help make up the shortfall, but our export capacity remains limited. Now Britain freezes. How many people will die in the UK because of their energy policies?
There are other reasons for Britain’s current situation, including the foolish shutting down last year of a natural gas storage facility at Rough, but the result is that Britain may turn in desperation to the same person that New England relies upon in times like these, Vladimir Putin.
Putin has been very busy. Also yesterday, the Science, Space and Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives released a report detailing how Russia used Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to exacerbate tensions over American energy policy and climate change. For example, Russians created a group called “Native Americans United” which put out an ad showing a young girl looking out over the prairie with the caption “Love Water Not Oil, Protect Our Mother, Stand with Standing Rock.” This tension obviously benefitted Vladimir Putin.
In this country, gas prices remain so low that many of the suppliers are hurting badly. As one of the producers told me yesterday, after fixed costs just about every place production is sold is negative. In the very short term that’s good for the consumer. In the long term that’s not. Were more export terminals operating, the price could rise to a sustainable level, more gas could be sent overseas to break the energy vice grip of countries like Russia and the chances of gaining effective leverage over Russia and other rogue states would increase.
Since the Cold War we’ve had a debate over which is more important, soft power or hard power. Here’s a tip for the “soft power’ proponents: Soft Power works best when you have it. Internationally, our current energy policy seems to be unilateral disarmament. Again, that raises the possibility that the only way we can project force internationally and protect our allies and our vital interests is through hard power. In English that means your sons and daughters and mine being sent overseas to fight.
When an “environmentalist” asks why you support hydraulic fracturing, you can answer very simply. “I love my children.”