Energy crisis in a tumultuous, multipolar world: Our planet first

Basma Fouad
Friday 21 Oct 2022

Dear reader, if you are interested in international and global affairs, I invite you to read this article carefully in order to know what is happening now and how it will affect your future and the future of your children.

 

We are at the threshold of a new era in the world's history - an era with a multipolar world order with different basics, ideologies and new structure in the new Global Order.

We only hear in all international and domestic media about the next winter gas crisis in Europe, the return to coal use and high levels of global inflation.

From the first reading, you can see Russia's goals: the Moscow Tsar punishes the Old Continent for aligning behind the United States of America in imposing sanctions on him after his military operation on Ukraine; he is forcing Europe to retreat on those sanctions and to surrender to the de facto policy of Russian advances within Ukrainian territory.

But with a better reading of events, you will find that Putin is actually on course to change Europe's political map completely. 

Dear reader, let us look at where the world is headed.

  • The cutting off of Russian gas imports, food and other life essentials from the Old Continent.
  • Rising inflation rates and a severe economic crisis ravaging the European family.
  • Returning to using coal and operating nuclear power plants.
  • A crisis in coal supply since Europe imports 54 percent of its coal needs from Moscow at a value of four billion euros annually. Russia exported 238 million tons of coal to Europe in 2021.
  • Increasing of electricity and gas prices by more than 200 percent compared to the price before the Russian-Ukrainian war.
  • Pitting of European peoples against their own governing political systems.
  • Increasing the popularity of right-wing currents and reviving the phenomenon of nationalism and populism.
  • The taking over of power by extremist far-right and populist parties.
  • Starting of reverse-migration from Europe to Africa, especially for the elderly back to their North African countries of origin because they cannot bear the harsh weather.
  • The changing of Europe's policy in aligning behind America and returning once again to the old pillars of European-Russian relations after the European citizen replaces the ruling political currents with right-wing and populist nationalist ones.

A new Global Order begins. As the Russian Tsar declared, "Now the unipolar global system is being replaced. The road to a multipolar world will be at the forefront of the Economic Forum's agenda in Russia this year."

He also emphasised that strong political and economic centres were being formed in the Asia-Pacific region under the framework of the "Road to a multipolar world."

Changing Dynamics

In a scene that Europe has not seen since the era of communist rule and the Second World War, Europeans in several countries queued outside coal mines to buy amid fears from a harsh winter and energy shortages. 

As winter begins, the real battle will begin: the European citizen will fight for survival.

The old leaders of the continent have been able to secure only 67 percent of its energy needs. So, Europe only returned to using coal as an alternative fuel to Russian gas whose supply to some countries has decreased and in others has even ground to a halt. 

Despite repeatedly announcing that it will dispense with fossil fuels, use clean energy, accelerate the exit of coal-fired power plants and implement an ambitious plan for the continent to become climate neutral by 2050, Europe now has no alternative but to return to the environmentally destructive coal.

France

In France, electricity prices have doubled by 200 percent in recent months.

After being the number one producer of electricity in Europe, France now imports electricity from Germany. This is not only due the interruption of the supply of gas from Russia, but it is also due the erosion of 12 nuclear plants amid record heatwaves and high temperatures in the rivers that nuclear reactors depend on for cooling processes.

Some of these nuclear plants date back to 1973. Only 24 of the 56 nuclear reactors are working.

Coal-fired plants are re-operating after years of closure. 

France is set for a harsh winter and an unprecedented rise in electricity prices.

Germany

Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the largest consumer of energy.

It is ranked seventh of the 10 most polluted by power plants among European countries.

The Minister of Economy Robert Habeck toured Israel and the Gulf states in an attempt to secure alternatives to Russian gas but returned home to announce emergency measures to implement the bitter step of returning to coal use.

Meanwhile, Italy declared a state of high alert. It re-legalised the use of coal in some industries and started doubling production at coal-based plants.

 Austria also decided to return to coal use after it had closed its last coal-fired power plant in Villachin 2020.

The Netherlands has also activated the "early warning" phase of a three-phase plan to confront the energy crisis and has doubled production in coal-fired power plants.

Human shortsightedness: What happens after returning to coal?

For several years, we warned of the dangers of coal and the need to dispense with it. We called for the implementation of the policy of so-called “carbon neutrality” because returning to coal will destroy the world.

The density of coal is 2.2 higher than the density of natural gas, which means that with coal burning emits twice as much carbon dioxide compared to that emitted by natural gas.

Coal also represents 44 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

A deadly combination of emissions that are produced after operating coal power plants – sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and fine particles – will degrade the environment and pose a serious threat to human health.

In 1952, 4,000 people died in England as a result of the "fog" that resulted from burning coal and diesel exhaust.

Therefore, the world's climate activists do not expect that the adoption and approval of a "phase-out" will be an easy task at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh. 

Many climate activists see the solution in renewable energy and others in nuclear energy. 

Despite disasters at nuclear power plants in the past, such as the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters, some believe that the solution to the current crisis is more investment in nuclear energy.

They argue that we can generate electricity from nuclear power at any time and place but we can generate renewable energy only from the sun and wind.

Others, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, see "the only real path to energy security, energy price stability, prosperity and a livable planet is to abandon polluting fossil fuels, especially coal, and renewable energy as the peace agenda of the twenty-first century."

Crises are worsening, prices are rising, some goods are disappearing, energy is becoming scarce and the future is unknown.

It is natural that the European citizen consider their immediate interest and the immediate interest of their country. But this will only increase the popularity and hold of right-wing and nationalist currents on the European political scene. 

There are many reasons for the rise of the right-wing and nationalist currents in Europe.

The Italian prime minister was forced to resign in July as a result of his support for Ukraine.

Then a political earthquake rocked the whole continent after the victory of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party in the legislative elections amid the growing energy crisis.  

Italy is the beginning and other countries could follow in its footsteps with the rise of the right-wing currents to the mainstream. 

Many fear an Italy exit from the European Union, as Britain did in Brexit, after the the right-wing reached power in Rome.

Italy is the third largest economy and the second most powerful army within the European Union.

So, there are particularly serious fears for unionists that enough Italians could call for secession from the European Union.

The rise of right-wing currents in Europe will continue.

The Old Continent will witness a deadly winter.

The conflict with Russia will intensify until we reach an end point, either through a radical solution or wholesale destruction.

We have to stop a little and recalculate. We have to put the destiny of this planet first.  Otherwise, we will not leave a chance for life to our children.

* The writer is a human rights and sustainable development researcher and trainer

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