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Monday, September 27, 2021

Winter Is Coming: Europe’s (Natural) Gas Crunch (and in Due Course, Ours)

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A pump jack operates in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area near Midland, Texas, August 23, 2018 (Nick Oxford/Reuters) The week of September 6, 2021: Soaring natural-gas prices, woke capital, employment, and much more

In last week’s Capital Letter, I quoted from an article by CNBC’s Kelly Evans in which she noted (among other topics) how the current “transition” away from carbon (which, it strikes me, is about as well planned as our transition out of Afghanistan) could actually decrease the resilience of our energy infrastructure, something that would be a bad idea however the climate may (or may not) develop.

Evans concluded her article with these words:

Every household and business on the planet right now should be thinking hard about how they get power, and how good their backup options are. The “mushy middle” of this global energy transition could be a very uncomfortable place to be.

As I noted last week, this mushy middle is already pretty uncomfortable (in the sense of being expensive) as BritsGermansCalifornians, and others could tell you. And Californians, of course, know a thing or two about disruption to energy supplies.

Now scroll up a bit through Evans’s piece to find this:

The U.S. isn’t the only one dealing with high energy bills. The situation is arguably worse in Europe, where natural gas prices (which supply household and business electricity) have spiked to 5-6x what they were two years ago, to the highest levels on record.

Remember how I mentioned that carbon prices in Europe have surged to a record high? They traded above 60 euros a tonne this week for the first time. That’s disincentivizing new gas production in Europe, which is also competing with Asia for liquefied natural gas supplies. The largest gas field in Europe…Gronigen, is shutting down next year–eight years earlier than planned, because of earthquake risks.

“The result,” writes David Sheppard in the Financial Times today, “is something approaching a global gas crunch.” And it leaves Russia alone as basically the “OPEC” of natural gas–the only country with spare capacity that could

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