Tuesday 9 August 2022

Edging closer to winter 2022-23 in Europe

Neither Tory leadership candidate really wants to acknowledge what's coming down the line for Xmas.  They'd much prefer to trade upbeat, positive-sounding stuff.  Boris sure as Hell doesn't want it to be discussed: anything that goes tits-up will be the exclusive responsibility of Whomever Follows, because, hey, there was no delinquency on his watch.   The same reticence can be seen across Europe.  We mulled this over four weeks ago; but as I return from a short hol, evidently the prospects for winter still remain too scary for anyone to acknowledge in full detail.  I suppose we must credit Gordon Brown (not a man who ever got much credit from C@W, and who has much to atone for) for at least having a try.  Even he only talks about domestic energy bills, as if the energy itself is not at issue.  And what of the food?

At the time of writing, only Italy and Slovakia are receiving any Russian gas to speak of: supplies to Germany are down to a trickle.  The gas systems of Europe are so stressed and constipated as they try to replace this with 'reverse-flow' sources - LNG terminals to the west of Europe, pushing gas eastwards - that various technical limitations have been reached and there's even spare capacity at UK LNG terminals right now: the amount we can onward-export via cross-channel pipelines is maxxed out.  The UK, and even more so, Spain (which is similarly well-provided with LNG terminals, but really can't export much to France at all) are islands of 'low' (relatively low) wholesale gas prices.  Demand destruction looms across industrial Europe.  And it's a really hot summer!

(Speaking of which, hot weather sends electricity prices up, too ...)

Presumably, Putin is showing his hand, gas-wise, as early as this in order to give European politicians a low-impact (relatively low) demo of what's to come.   If, despite the inclinations of France / Italy / Hungary / many German businessmen towards an "accommodation", Europe actually has to wear this in winter 2022-23, the dynamics of world trade will be monumentally distorted.  To say nothing of the politics.  Ukraine may be planning a spectacular counter-offensive for the weeks to come, and China continues its firework display: but otherwise, all eyes are on Germany.  What will Scholz do?



Anonymous said...

What should an ordinary middle class chap with a family do to prepare for the winter? (I’m US-based by the way, but my family is all in Blighty. Curious to hear your thoughts about both countries. Buying lots of pasta seems prudent.)

dearieme said...

The trouble with assuming that Merkel was a Soviet/Russian agent is that you then probably have to assume the same of Ed Miliband, Ed Davey, and Carrie Horseface.

Has it been malice and treason, or just epic ignorance and stupidity combined with limitless ambition?

Merkel had been a physical chemist so the ignorance argument is a bit difficult to make. But then she's the likeliest to have been a Red.

dearieme said...

@anon: how about buying a hybrid car that's equipped so that you can run the petrol engine to supply electricity to the house? Or you could buy a diesel generator I suppose, though in our case I suspect someone would steal it.

Nick Drew said...

@ Anon: I'm no survivalist loon with a bunker at the end of the garden: but when energy is the issue the answer is rarely pasta! Or anything that needs a lot of cooking.

Remember, when times are hard, only the relatively wealthy can afford to eat potatoes (which require serious amounts of energy to cook): it's BREAD that is the staple. It's why, in really tough times, you got 'bread riots': a penny on the price of a loaf was catastrophic for poor families.

I think you'll quickly arrive at some more practical answers for your foodstuff concerns.

Ordinary middle-class chaps? My observation is - and not wishing to make light of things, it's too serious - that the middle classes are somewhat less averse** to being advised to put on another layer of jumpers, than the MSM-prodded lower orders who can be encouraged to howl at such ideas as being against their human rights. At least when the BBC has a camera under their noses. Of course, there are the sick and elderly for whom nothing but a room full of suitably warm air will suffice. Even Liz 'ice-maiden' Truss might eventually realise that tax cuts ain't gonna satisfy that need.
**And not just because the middle classes went to boarding school - that's very much in a tiny minority these days

DJK said...

Anon: If the worst we have to fear is a few 70s style power cuts then we'll have got off lightly. Just stock up on candles and woolly jumpers. Far more worrying is the prospect of the US government doubling down on either its war on Russia or the new war with China. Even VV Putin and Chairman Xi don't have infinite patience. And then there's the latest new Covid variant to look forward to...

On inflation, general advice is to convert depreciating GPB, USD, etc to thinks of lasting value. Secondhand cars seem a good bet these days.

E-K said...

Our Covid response lead us to this and I told you many times it would.

War. Crippling inflation. The woke/greenist/leftist putsch that took place under lockdown.

A couple of weeks' supply of tinned food and water if you're that way inclined. Plenty of batteries, LED's and one of those power pack batteries for your computer system.

Any more than that and (if things get that bad) you'll become a target of hoodlums anyway.

Covid was a test of our mettle and we failed woefully. We went down a money-printing, BLM, Carrie rabbit hole. Putin saw his chance.

E-K said...

Putin is handing us back our arses.

Peter Hitchens writes (from memory) "If we are lucky we'll be eating boiled cabbages in cold houses. Ukrainians will be sitting in their ruined homes in a ruined country wondering where all their young men have gone. And we'll all be asking ourselves whether it was worth it."

That's if the war (that America actually started in 2008) doesn't escalate in Ukraine or occur in the Sth China Sea.

No. It wasn't worth it.

Sobers said...

@E-K: its what we get for living in the era of one dying global empire, and the rise of a new one. The passing of the baton of global power doesn't happen overnight, nor without a lot of death, destruction and suffering. In fact I often think the UK is never given enough credit for allowing its global empire to wither away without any real attempts to retain its position as No 1 nation. I guess our efforts in WW2 meant we were done by 1945, and knew the gig was up, so it became pointless to try and pretend we could compete with the USA, especially when we had to go cap in hand to them to stop ourselves starving in the immediate post war era.

Somehow I don't think the USA will go quietly into the night in the way the British Empire did. We can expect a number of national virility p*ssing competitions over the next decade or so. Ukraine is the first, a proxy war with Russia, to show them who's boss, and then the nutters in charge of the US military industrial complex will set their sights on China, a conflict with whom has every chance of destroying us all in a nuclear Armageddon.

Anonymous said...

Back to energy.

So Spain with its LPG terminals is the place to go this winter. I'll get the brochure out.

Note that the new head of John Lewis is urging the government to get the "economically inactive" over-50s back into the workforce "to reduce wage inflation". If the price of energy increases, the only warm places in the winter will be offices and factories, so the problem will solve itself.

decnine said...

What will Scholz do? He'll keep staring at the headlights.

Caeser Hēméra said...

Once Truss is anointed, I may well be inclined to stick a cheeky tenner on her lasting less time as PM than Canning.

If she's thinking of just tax cuts, and if we have a bad winter, she'll be lucky to see out January as the party figuratively sacrifice her. Even a mild one might do for her if she's not prepared to cosplay Gordon Brown.

There's an old Pagan saying - fire, flax, fodder and frigg - woe betide the government that fails to keep the first three accessible.

I suspect Germany will wiggle through the winter, they've got the gas reserves up now, are bringing coal back on and will be forced to be the same for nuclear, the German Greens aren't as dumb as ours.

Russia _might_ have overplayed its hand here though, its fossil fuel incomes have started to drop, which means profit margins will have - IIRC, Russia's extraction costs are the highest in the world due to their infrastructure investment being positively Venezuelan - and it cannot easily pivot eastwards. So if Europe turns away after this winter, its remaining customers are those who like a steep discount.

If Germany folds, Putin will have played his hand well, if not, Russia won't have enough chips left to buy in the next hand.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@anon 8:17

If concerned about the heating going out, jumpers - you can probably find last years winter goods and crimbo themed jumpers at a bit of a discount.

Food wise, lots of Oxo, lots of tinned soup, lots of tinned or dried protein. A tin of condensed mushroom soup and a tin of tuna combined was the go to for a few Americans I knew who were were brought up in poorer families.

Soups and stews can be easily and cheaply knocked up with some basic ingredients, start adding in lentils and barley and you'll feel full for longer. You can use stale bread to act as a thickener.

I'm debating getting a heat pump installed, along with some updated camping equipment just in case, but I'm honestly not expecting much beyond a few brownouts, maybe a rolling blackout as worst case.

Nick Drew said...

@ Russia's extraction costs are the highest in the world due to their infrastructure investment being positively Venezuelan - and it cannot easily pivot eastwards

That's essentially right, CH - although a lot of the cost is in energy wasted due to monumental leakage; and much of the rest is due to the immense distances everything must travel. They don't have the technology, even for very-high-pressure pipelines (which minimise waste), nor - or so they loudly claim! - for compressors.

They sell only a fraction of their (pipeline) output to China etc, (they do produce some LNG) and that can't change in a hurry.

To start with, even with reduced sales they were making so much more (via raised prices) per unit that it more than compensated. Now the sales of pipeline gas are down to a trickle, and as you say the revenues are tapering off, and deep discounts will be the order of the day.

I tend to go with your assessment on Germany, though anything might happen to negate it. A motivated Germany is a fearsome beast with deep reserves of stamina, unlike one or two other Eu nations we could all name.

DJK said...

If cheap nutrition is what you want, try Rumford soup:

As an aside, Rumford thought that the heat added calorific value. He showed that paupers would starve if just fed the raw ingredients.

dustybloke said...

Politicians all over the world are getting up off their knees from Greta the Goony as reality bites. Europe will instead kneel before Vlad for the same reason. In the USA Dopey Joe has had a go at kneeling before the Arabs.

It seems the West do their best work on their knees.

Perhaps Carrie did too, which explains why Boris suddenly went Green.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Sure, but apart from Russians blowing up nuclear power stations in Ukraine; WW3 breaking out; mass hunger in third world; hight inflation (the inevitable result of massive money printing to bail out banks and house prices); freezing cold home; power cuts; floods/droughts/heatwaves/XR people committing arson (for those into their Guardian style climate crisis porn); bread riots and social unrest; Tory tax hikes while running massive deficits while cutting spending on frontline services etc (the typical Tory trifecta of public finance shite)...

Things look OK to me. Pound shop Thatcher will sort it all out.

rwendland said...

ND> a lot of the cost is in energy wasted due to monumental leakage; and much of the rest is due to the immense distances everything must travel. They don't have the technology, even for very-high-pressure pipelines (which minimise waste), nor - or so they loudly claim! - for compressors.

I read that Gazprom has 632,000 km of gas pipeline - further than the moon, so no wonder they struggle to keep it all maintained and unleaky! Also that the Yamal–Europe pipeline (trough Poland) uses 10% of the gas it pumps to run the compressors to get it that far - makes you wonder if LNG and ships is more efficient at that distance nowadays.

Also that Nord Stream runs at much higher pressure than their other gas pipelines, which is why they need Siemens (was Rolls-Royce before a takeover in 2014) 52 MW compressors. Apparently current Russian made compressors are only 25 MW, but they are developing a 65 MW one for ~2024.



jim said...

The FT has an interesting graphic from Cornwall Insight which indicates overall energy prices still high but levelling off Q3 2023. But with a long way to fall back to winter 2021/22. The question is will energy prices fall?

Are we beating Mr Putin - are the sanctions working. If not what comes next. Obviously HMG does not want to frighten the children but energy bills up around the £4500 region don't seem sustainable. Germany is also going to be taking pain - the question is for how long. I suspect Cornwall Insights are being a bit hopeful. Much more pain to come. How long before someone asks how about a nuke - just a little one - or two or three.

The doctrine so far has been MAD - nuke as an all or nothing option. But need that be always the case. Perhaps the protagonists need a referee - you get three goes and then you get three goes. If you want to go into the next round we can try another three each.

Now the loss of Westminster and Neasden might be bearable and the Yanks might tolerate downtown Hoboken and Frisco (it is after all their proxy war). The Germans might usefully lose bits of Berlin and Munich and for the French - well La Defense is pretty ugly anyway. The trouble is deciding when you have had enough - when energy costs of £4500 or even £6000 start to look good. How much would Putin have to lose before he decides to pack it in - or go full Tonto. Something for the military planners to consider.

Meanwhile, a friend in leafy Surrey is ripping out his electric fire, sweeping the chimney, chasing the spiders off the iron grate and ordering a pallet load of smokeless coal from Up North.

Nick Drew said...

@ I read that Gazprom has 632,000 km of gas pipeline ... no wonder they struggle to keep it all maintained and unleaky!

I have a very funny anecdote on this from my days in Russia. Over a beer maybe. Or another post on a slow day.

dearieme said...

On the proletarians being a bunch of spoiled sissies: when I used to take offspring to school, we'd cycle together. And in September so would almost everyone else. But come the first cold snap is was yer bourgeoisie who kept cycling: Marx's Elect immediately started driving.

Bloke in Callao said...

'I have a very funny anecdote on this [...] Or another post on a slow day.'

Let's have it Mr Drew, your anecdotes from the past are always fascinating and anyway I don't think there'll be many slow days from now on.

Nick Drew said...

OK. watch this space

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND Looks the Rhine's water levels might be one of those events feeding into this, after years of feeling smugly secure, the German state looks to be starting to panic.

Hopefully the large amounts of cold water flung into its face will make its way to said river.

@Mark Wadsworth - I'd not be too worried about WW3 just yet, let us see how Russia responds to the Crimea hit.

So far, in order to save face, anything embarrassing has been waved off as an accident rather than escalate. Escalation now has its own dangers back in Russia, if you've been busy been selling your little police action as a success, suddenly explaining that actually it's not been that great is going to start inviting the kind of questions that make your rule start down the path towards being untenable.

China too only look willing to go as far as a blockade, they've never done an invasion like they'd need to do with Taiwan and, with the world watching, there's an awful lot more downsides than upsides for them with that. Even a success would come with costs Xi may not wish to bear. China only rattles its sabres if it assumes they're not sharp enough to pierce the enemy, otherwise they're driven through without mercy.

Anonymous said...

Jumpers, woolly socks and slippers are all very well for those of us who can do 10-15 miles on foot - for the elderly and mobility-restricted they won't do.

My late aunt kept the house at 80F and never opened a window, kept her going til 93.

There's already talk of warm day shelters for them.

I may invest in one of those heated throws as well as a vast amount of firewood.

This is all so unnecessary though - why we didn't for once tell the Septics that we objected to Ukraine in NATO on the grounds that exactly what has happened would happen... just because Russia stopped them from totally buggering up Syria (they had to settle for 90% buggering, and who asked the US to invade?).

PS - this is the first war you can glimpse online - on this Ukie-supporting site you can see half a dozen cams in the occupied/liberated zones, hear the bangs and see the odd "Z" flagged transport, plus a cam in central Bakmut, unscarred despite the WSJ reporting.


Nick Drew said...

CH - excellent comments, all three.

- water levels in the Rhine have long been critical for Germany: many prices for delivered commodities there are set by indices that are closely related (i.e. Rhine barge freight-rates). Low water there is paralleled with low water on French waterways - bad news for nukes: French electricity sector is in serious trouble

- the Crimea thing is Really Interesting. How Russia finally spins this will definitely be something to watch and savour: they are damned by the critical domestic audience either way (even if they can reply upon the 'patriotic' audience) - including the hyper-active milibloggers, whom the authorities have apparently decided to pander to, rather than suppress (up until now)

- China: yes, the prime audience for all of this nonsense. "What can we get away with ..?" And yes, they are far less sure of their invasion capabilities than many assume - at least, a "successful" invasion-of-reoccupation, rather than wholesale destruction

Nick Drew said...

Anon - not just webcams, either: air movements, radar emissions, fall of artillery fire, commercial satellite imagery and BDA; the whole 9 yards.

Gulf War One (1990-91) was noted for CNN live-streaming the fall of Scuds in Israel and Saudi. Syria was quite online, with the added element of the Bellingcat stuff: Ukraine is even more so. Astonishing.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes - the good old electric oven, made at Telford or similar at 7kw or so is a thing of the past - everyone I know with electric stoves is getting air fryers made in China. Baked spuds = 6 minutes in 800w microwave plus a few minutes at 200 to brown them.

Our oven, as well as our oil-fired Raeburn, will be Christmas and birthdays only from now on.

We have no electric heating other than an IBM PC running 11 hours a day, all our lighting is LED and our electric bill is £40 a week!

Anonymous said...

ND - I have been looking at flightradar24 to see the shuttles into Rzeszow and even the odd AN12 out of Uzhhorod.

True, there's the flash detector sites - any links for radar emissions sites? I tend to just check twitter for Bakhmut or Artemovsk to see the latest on individual battles.

Anonymous said...

"the added element of the Bellingcat stuff"

OK if you want a wholly-owned if outsourced MI6 source I suppose. I wonder what the true story of the late James le Mesurier was?

Nick Drew said...

Anon - there's some very revealing stuff on the 'radars': the up-and-down 'survey' work is obvious enough but the other day I spotted what was clearly an in-flight refueling mission (either that, or something engaged in prolonged aerial copulation with a KC-135)

Emissions - see https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/2022/02/11/radar-interference-tracker-a-new-open-source-tool-to-locate-active-military-radar-systems/

By 'Bellingcat' I meant the entire OSINT cottage industry. Folks may have their suspicions about Bellingcat lui-même (and let's face it, the Russians have every reason to spread shit about them - don't be too gullible) but you aren't going to suggest that the widespread new amateur geo-location industry is run out of Langley, are you?

Anonymous said...

"Folks may have their suspicions about Bellingcat lui-même (and let's face it, the Russians have every reason to spread shit about them - don't be too gullible) "

And, sadly, the US/UK have every reason to spread shit about whichever Middle Eastern country is on this week's hitlist. But after Iraq (a waste of time/money/lives) and Libya (which led directly to the Libya-Lampedusa migrant shuttle, a lot of dead kids in Manchester and 22 dead Brits on Tunisian beaches), the idea that "supporting" an "uprising" in Syria aka arming jihadists was the way to Damascus becoming paradise on earth - well, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me thrice I either have a room temp IQ or I believe that the news media "just reports".

When did you last see Syria on the news? Yet when Bellingcat and that Save The Children politico woman were trying to get a no-fly zone a la Libya, Aleppo was the main story night after night.

When did you last see the news headlines coming from Yemen? About 1961, I reckon, when we were still in Aden and Hawker Hunters were a thing.

Anonymous said...

ND - ta, that bellingcat link raises interesting questions - might a newly located radar system be switched off when Sentinel-1 passes over? Or are US/Russian satellites with similar capability overhead much more often?

Anonymous said...

Taiwan produces over half of the world semiconductor chips.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company TSMC foundry manufacturers the most diverse.

Semiconductor factory sites, or fabs, are full of complex and delicate machines.
Construction takes around 3 years and many billions of dollars.
There are only so many people in the world with the skill to lead on construction.

Shock waves from bombs or even leaving the doors for dust to blow through will destroy the machines.

China is well aware a scorched earth policy in the fabs by Taiwan would cause the world untold supply issues.

Anonymous said...

"Folks may have their suspicions about Bellingcat lui-même (and let's face it, the Russians have every reason to spread shit about them - don't be too gullible)"

A Russian and an American get on a plane in Moscow and get to talking. The Russian says he works for the Kremlin and he’s on his way to go learn American propaganda techniques.

“What American propaganda techniques?” asks the American.

“Exactly,” the Russian replies.

(I believe the Ukraine govt has 50+ PR companies working for them, and their propaganda is much more sophisticated than anything the Russians can deploy. If they can convince well meaning people that Russian forces, having captured a nuclear power station, are now shelling it, well...)

But I do see propaganda from both sides on twutter. If I see the words "cauldron", "kessel" from one side yet again (there would be no Uke army left by now) or get asked to look at the video of some poor young guys getting fatally shot up from the other - the same video every day for a week ...

AndrewZ said...

Western Europe's energy crisis is ultimately down to the green ideology of the elite. A foolish reliance on politically-volatile Russian gas just adds another weakness to an already-compromised system.

So, when things get bad this winter, Europe's politicians will be desperate to pin the blame on anybody but themselves. If Putin starts openly using gas supplies as a weapon, they will leap at the chance to portray him as the sole cause of all our problems. Instead of capitulating, they'll all be doing a Churchill act for the cameras.

As for the public, Russian aggression will suddenly become personal. The result will be an outpouring of rage towards Russia and its leaders, which will make any concessions politically impossible.

Anonymous said...

Don't know. The Mail's story today about another pile of weapons for Ukraine has roused the commentariat to ask - "where's the money to support us?"