The European Union is not happy with EU nations that have gone back to burning coal to generate power in the wake of the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. During a recent interview, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said that European nations have to make sure they don’t backslide to using dirty fossil fuels as the energy crisis continues. Rather, she told media outlets, we should use the crisis to move our transition to clean fuels forward.
Russia is a major global producer of oil and gas, with a large chunk of those going to European nations. But as several governments placed sanctions on Russia after its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the global dependence on Russian fuel became a liability and undermined national efforts to move away from dirty fossil fuels.
The Netherlands, Austria and Germany recently announced that they would ease the restrictions they had placed on coal power stations as energy supplies from Russia dwindled and increased the fears of looming shortages. This came shortly after Russia reduced its supply of natural gas to Western European nations, causing a significant rise in energy prices.
These countries’ decisions to use coal to beef up local energy supply is a bad choice that will have structural consequences, says Niel Makaroff from the Climate Action Network. Instead of investing in renewable energy, something that would blend perfectly with their fossil-fuel reduction commitments, they are turning back to fossil fuel energy, he lamented. This also increases the risk of substituting one dependency for another, he said, stating that the dependency on Russian hydrocarbons could soon be replaced by Australian or Colombian coal or natural gas from the United States or Qatar.
Carbon Market Watch called the move back to fossil fuels worrisome and said that it hoped it would only be temporary. German Economic Minister Robert Habeck argued that Russia’s move to cut gas supplies was an attack on Germany.
Although Moscow claims that cutting down on gas supply to EU countries was for maintenance and technical reasons, these countries believe this is Russia’s way of getting back at the EU for not supporting its invasion of Ukraine.
Habeck said that for Germany to reduce its reliance on Russian gas and consume less natural gas, it would have to turn to its coal-fired power plants to generate electricity. He said that it was a bitter but indispensable move needed to reduce gas consumption in the country.
As long as cleaner forms of energy aren’t available to meet the needs of different countries, coal extraction companies such as Alliance Resource Partners L.P. (NASDAQ: ARLP) will always have clients to service.
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