There is friendly energy. The intelligence to use it is missing

Publish date 26-12-2022

by Carlo Degiacomi

A new individual and social mentality, trust in science and a united response from Europe as answers to the energy crisis

There is a close link between the energy crisis (not only attributable to the Russian invasion of Ukraine) and climate change. As if there were still a need, 2022 shows how climate change is here and now, even in our Italian and Mediterranean "backyard": drought, melting glaciers, sea and mountain temperatures, heat waves in cities, extreme atmospheric events, floods… Over 130 extreme events with serious consequences in Italy on at least 800 municipalities, with the worst damage in areas where there has been no land care. The recent case of the Marches is a sad example of this. We should urgently move from the causes to the practices of solution, closely linked to the energy crisis. The periodic world appointments, the IPCC* reports, the UN guidelines, the urgent choices required of the various States by the European Union with fixed deadlines, the sensible proposals of ecological associations indicate that the roads are traced, but still little traveled by many governments, often with the excuse of new emergencies. But can those who do not believe in climate change and would like to abandon the objectives already set to combat them implement them?

* Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


What is missing, especially in Italy? For example, that the strategy is not with the "brake on" or even against European choices, as in the case of energy, also imposed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its strategy of blackmail. Unlike many other European countries, we are still stuck on a 2018 draft of a strategic national plan on climate change. The summer letter from the scientific community signed by 200,000 Italians (many but also few!) recommends addressing the issue concretely, immediately, by combining competence, realism, determination and meanwhile making full use of current technologies. But can those who are clearly against innovations and choices based on relatively new technologies, which are now practicable everywhere, be able to do it? Who is just trying in every way to prolong the use of fossil fuels? Who is relaunching as an alternative objectives such as next-generation nuclear power that will perhaps be available in decades? To be clear: the new nuclear power plant in France (EAR) needed 27 years from the start of planning.

Of course we need to prepare without hesitation, as we are trying to do, the essential aid to consumption for families and economic activities, but these interventions must be well calibrated and selected without clientele, covered with the extra profits made by energy companies in the various sectors , which are opposed.

First road. Refunds alone are not enough, together we need to make the most of renewable energies (photovoltaic and wind power and more, which have now arrived at low and competitive prices), solving and expanding accumulation techniques. There are ample spaces for investment, fewer laces, a lot more work. Many too many companies have never faced their energy problem: they must be encouraged and forced to deal with it. This is the only way to make sense of even contradictory short-term measures to manage the emergency. If one is determined, with the technologies available, much can be done to avoid CO2 emissions and obtain energy, without taking steps backwards with respect to needs. Italy, which has reduced its annual requirement from Russian dependence from 40 to 20% (and is trying to reach 10%) also needs regasification terminals (without triggering illogical opposition), to receive liquid gas by sea from other suppliers, but as temporary solutions. But can those who consider them structural do it? And who thinks of finding agreements with Putin functional to undermine the strategic and irreversible European objective of being energetically autonomous quickly?

Second street. Follow science which, with its medium and long-term research, is bringing about other important innovations. Applied research continually produces new discoveries and improving technologies. The market is traveling in this direction, even in components such as lithium batteries. There are dozens of experiments which it is good to find out about: new and good practices concerning the use of accumulators – batteries with new materials, more powerful and applicable to vehicles such as cars, boats, trains; real and concrete pushes for the use of hydrogen; biogas plants; capture of CO2 in situations where it is convenient. The realities mentioned are all concrete actions, where costs are decreasing; where new structures, technologies and new jobs can be developed, while trying to mitigate the job losses linked to fossil fuels, with various tools available. But can those who look only to preserve and curb the past do it, as if it were possible?

Third street. The participatory and civic commitment of everyone. On complex economic, social and environmental issues it should be clear (even after Covid) that individual responsibility is required to manage crisis situations, alongside the choices of governments and many decision-makers. Will the energy saving program (which asks citizens for common sense and does not impose rationing!) be credible, fair and respected? Will sensible proposals (which affect waste more than sacrifices) be disclosed and subject to serious information? Who will check? Who will respond conscientiously, because to solve the problems of their country everyone must do their part, not just demand? Will the same scene of indifference no vax be repeated? A cultural change is also needed, not just the request that the State think about relieving all costs, in a framework that takes into account social differences and economic justice. But can those who only advance demagogic opposition from those who think that everything will settle down by itself can do it?

Fourth street. Influencing world political and geolocation aspects. All three avenues above must be not only national but also European issues. Environmental and energy issues need Europe's ability to operate united and in harmony, with fairness between the various countries, with collective adjustments, to be at the center of international confrontation without blackmail (as China and Russia operate instead). We have seen the difficulties in deciding in Europe, which is also trying, even if late: several months have been lost. There are many choices: joint purchasing agreements between European countries and the introduction of a ceiling on the price of gas for all (not just Russia given the reduction in supply).

Given that the Amsterdam gas exchange (TTF) is a speculative place without transparency well before the Ukrainian war, the price of gas can be linked to the US liquid price (1/3 and 1/4 of the TTF price); we need to separate the gas prices from the electricity prices of renewables, changing the current mechanism. We need "more Europe", which balances the market, in order not to have damages in Italy and in countries today still too dependent on fossil fuels. But can those who want "less Europe" do it?

Carlo Degiacomi

NP Ottobre 2022


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