Countries around the world are feeling the brunt of the global energy crisis.
Some Chinese provinces are rationing electricity, Europeans are paying exorbitant prices for liquefied gas and Lebanon has run out of centrally-generate electricity.
Furthermore, India is close to running out of coal and in the United States, the price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.25 on Friday, up from April’s $1.27.
As the global economy works to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the sudden energy crisis is putting a strain on supply chains and stirring geopolitical tensions.
What’s more, as global leaders are preparing to meet for the landmark Cop26 in the hope of taking steps towards easing climate change, questions are now being raised about the plausibility of a global green energy revolution.
The crisis has been blamed on a perfect storm of factors, primarily the economic recovery from the pandemic coming after countries spent less on the extraction of fossil fuels over the last 18 months.
An unusually cold winter in Europe that drained the continent’s energy reserves, a series of hurricanes that shutdown Gulf oil refineries, worsening relations between China and Australia and less wind over the North Sea have also contributed.
‘It radiates from one energy market to another,’ Daniel Yergin, author of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, told the Washington Post.
‘Governments are scrambling to get subsidies in place to avoid a tremendous political backlash,’ he said.
‘There’s a pervasive anxiety about what may or may not happen this winter, because of something we have no control over, which is the weather.’
People on their scooters and motorcycles are pictured in August as they wait in a queue for petrol amid the shortage as Lebanon agreed a stop-gap deal with Iraq to supply usable fuel this summer
India has warned coal reserves are at record lows with coal-fired plants set to go dark in just three days (file photo)
Some Chinese provinces are rationing electricity due to the crisis. Pictured: Coal-Electricity Power Station in Shanghai on September 28, 2021
Putin has been accused of deliberately withholding gas supplies as leverage with the EU, who he wants to sign off on his new £8.1 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Pictured: View of the Pipeline Inspection Gauge (PIG) receiving station, the Nord Stream 2
WHAT CAUSED GAS PRICES TO SOAR?
Before the pandemic in early 2020, the world’s gas reserves were plentiful and the price was low.
But as Covid-19 swept the globe, economies were battered and the production of both oil and has was reduced sharply.
In the meantime, an unusually cold winter in Europe meant that the reserves were used up, with production not matching demand.
China was the first to feel the energy crisis when global demand for its products shot upwards this year.
With coal stocks low, and an unofficial ban on Chinese ban on Australian lignite meaning they could not be easily refilled, power companies turned to liquefied natural gas (LNG).
As a result, prices soared.
In Asia, the sport price – measured in a million British thermal units – rose from less than $5 in September 2020 to over $56 this October.
In response, two-thirds of China has seen curbs on power consumption introduced, and some factories have shut down all-together.
China’s cuts to power usage will further disrupt international supply chains that were already stretched by the pandemic.
Ahead of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow at the end of the month, renewable energy advocates are arguing that the crisis shows the need to move away from fossil fuels.
Their critics have argued that it shows the opposite, saying that wind and solar are not meeting demand. Analysts are also concerned that the shortages and high prices will damage economic recovery.
But as countries struggle, Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of the crisis. Earlier this week, Russia’s strongman president was called upon by the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) to help ease the crisis by releasing more exports to Europe.
Putin has been accused of deliberately withholding gas supplies as leverage with the EU, who he wants to sign off on his new £8.1 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, run by state energy Gazprom, that bypasses Ukraine.
Many are opposed to the pipeline, however. Russia is already the second-largest supplier of gas to the EU behind Norway, and Nord Stream 2 will increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and Moscow’s geopolitical clout.
On Wednesday, Putin suggested that Russia’s European customers could solve the crisis on the continent by importing more Russian gas.
Tensions are also rising within the EU, with leaders at odds over how to respond to the crisis.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban, who is friendly with Putin, said on Wednesday that the EU was partly to blame for the price increases, saying that the bloc ‘must change its policy’.
On the same day, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said those blaming the block’s Green Deal are only doing so for ‘ideological reasons,’ and that a transition away from fossil fuels will help put an end to the price crisis.
‘The wrong response to this would be to slow down the transition to renewable energy,’ Timmermans said. ‘The right response is to keep the momentum and perhaps even look for ways to increase the momentum.’
But energy analysts have suggested that Europe move too quickly from using fossil fuels for power before ensuring that there was sufficient renewable sources.
Now, with winter approaching, European fuel stocks are relatively low.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, there is no centrally-generated electricity after the country’s two biggest power stations shut down due to a fuel shortage, plunging six million people into darkness.
Production stopped at Zahrani power station today hours after the Deir Ammar plant shuttered yesterday when diesel supplies were reportedly exhausted.
A government official confirmed the country’s power network ‘completely stopped working at noon today’ and warned production was unlikely to restart ‘until next Monday, or for several days’.
The official said the state electricity company would try to use the army’s fuel oil reserve to operate the power plants temporarily, but that would not happen anytime soon.
Lebanon has been in chaos for years after the government resigned following the huge accidental gas explosion in Beirut in 2020.
The shortages are likely a result of the mismanagement after months of power wrangling between the country’s different factions.
But it comes against a backdrop of energy shortages world wide and fears of global fuel shortages after India warned its coal-fired plants could go dark in just three days and electricity blackouts hit China.
China is battling through its worst electricity crisis in a decade with the country so short on power cities have been hit by blackouts (pictured, Shenyang this week)
The country has been in the throes of an economic meltdown threatening its stability for the past 21 months. Pictured: Long queues for fuel in Beirut in June
Officials said Lebanon’s network ground to a halt today after energy production dropped below 200megawatts – enough to power only about 5,000 homes.
In July, Lebanon agreed a stop-gap deal with Iraq to supply fuel in a desperate bid to ease the crippling blackouts and shortages of essential supplies.
The shortage has caused huge hours-long lines for basic goods spilling out on to the streets in what have been branded ‘queues of humiliation’ by locals.
Many Lebanese normally rely on private generators run on diesel, although that is also in short supply.
The country has been paralysed by an economic crisis, which has deepened as supplies of imported fuel have dried up. The Lebanese currency has sunk by 90 per cent since 2019.
Lebanon defaulted on its foreign debt last year and struggled to pay suppliers. The Central Bank has been limiting credit…