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More signs that energy realism is coming back into fashion: I’m so old I can remember when we were well along with phasing out coal. But lo and behold 2022 is going to turn out to see the highest use of coal ever, for the simple reason that Europe’s self-inflicted energy crisis has made it necessary to rush back into coal in a big way.

Today the Wall Street Journal reports:

Coal, No Longer Shunned, Keeps Europe’s Lights on Through Frigid Weather

Europe passed its first winter test without Russian energy, keeping the lights on through this month’s cold blast. The secret to its success: burning more coal than it has in years.

Consuming large amounts of coal represents a difficult choice for European nations that had promised to ditch the carbon-intensive fuel to contain climate change. Russia’s cut to natural-gas supplies after invading Ukraine and outages at French nuclear plants have spurred the revival. European demand is one reason why the world is on track for record coal consumption in 2022, the International Energy Agency said this month.

I especially love this droll (but accurate) part of the article:

The effects of war have turbocharged coal’s comeback. But a flaw in Europe’s approach to the transition toward renewable sources of energy has also played a role.

The continent has invested in wind and solar energy while closing dozens of coal-fired power plants over the past decade. When it is cloudy or the wind is low, and demand is high, Europe doesn’t have the capacity to maintain electricity supplies from clean sources.


The second part of this story, however, is that soaring energy prices are causing European governments to subsidize energy bills for its citizens. Having massively subsidized “green” energy for 20 years that can’t ramp up to fill the gap of lost Russian oil and gas, the subsidies now required to backstop the population are truly massive. Germany is going to spend 7.7% of GDP providing subsidies for its hard-pressed consumers and industry. “Energy revolution” indeed.

This cannot continue. Which is why coal is likely here to stay, and Germany isn’t going to make its 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets.