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An Energy Crisis In Tandem With A Food Crisis On Top Of An Economic Crisis And A War. This Cannot End Well.

by Ian, 2 September 2022

As politicians in North America and Europe try to deflect from their own failure that have contributed to the current plethora of crises by blaming Russia and Vladmir Putin for all the current problems, while the war in Ukraine is a contributory factor in each, the real blame lies closer to home.

Today's topics 20 September 2022: Russia, Ukraine, war, energy crisis, European Union

The most disturbing thing about the current global mess is the interconnectedness of all the concurrent crises, because the way they are feeding into each other is making each individual case, and the whole, worse.

The reduction of gas supplies to Europe by Russia, (with Germany, the European Union's biggest economy, being hardest hit,) has contributed to the energy crisis but we should not forget the role in the energy crisis played by politicians obsession with 'net zero' and the idea that the sophisticated economies of developed nations can get all the electricity they need, twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year from sources that are 'clean' but unreliable and at best intermittent.

Politicians are determined to blame the current war for energy shortages in Europe and soaring energy prices around the world but the foundations of the crisis were in place long before Russia invaded Ukraine. And Russia's weaponization of energy has brought those variables to light over recent months. 

Natural gas is becoming increasingly expensive, with Dutch TTF futures more than 1,000% higher than a year ago, and more pain could come as Russia's Gazprom shuts down Nord Stream 1 this week, allegedly 'for repairs' but more likely to further weaponise its position as the indispensable supplier of energy to EU member states.. 

Electricity costs, too, have soared, mainly because so many nations have abandoned gas and coal as fuel for generators and shut down nuclear installations under pressure from the green lobby they can no longer service the needs of commercial and domestic consumers at times of peak demand. 

"Last week Europe awoke to a bitter truth: the energy crisis is here to stay," a Bank of America analyst wrote Monday. But America is not immune to the problems. Though The USA does not import coal or oil from Russia, the unavailability of these commodities to nations which imposed retaliatory sanctions in support of Ukraine following the Russian invasion has forced up prices on commodity markets in London, New York, Dubai, and Singapore.

Now, EU nations are scrambling to find alternative resources, with coal in particular emerging as a key commodity. A few months ago the UK government extended the life of the coal fired generating plants at West Burton and Radcliffe on Soar and last month also contracted the operator of Drax to extend the life of that coal fired plant until 2024. Plans are also being considered to recommission several more power stations fuelled by coal. Germany is also in the process of reviving coal generated electricity.

These moves mark a reversal for Europe, as it has been EU policy to close down coal plants for years due to climate initiatives. 

"Before the war, Europe had wanted to be a leader in decarbonizing, and that's worked out to a certain extent with wind and solar, but they made a choice to place significant reliance on Russia in order to claim progress towards net zero," industry analyst Rob Thummel noted.

He added that, after years of underinvesting, coal is now harder to access and more expensive. 

Nonetheless, Europe has little choice other than to fire up shuttered plants because that offers a faster solution than trying to build brand new LNG facilities, while nuclear plants take up to a decade to progress from planning to completion. It is likely take the continent of Europe several years to rebuild generating up the infrastructure to get out of the crisis.

Russia is not only a key supplier of energy, it is also the worlds largest supplier of raw materials for commercial fertilizer. As we approach the end of summer 1922 harvest yields are expected to be down significantly because from March this year exports of those raw materials have been banned by Russia in retaliation for sanctions imposed by NATO and EU member states.

Next year however, the fertilizer crisis is likely to send food prices higher, further adding to the already crippling increase in living costs that is driving millions of families into poverty and destitution. And yet the main military powers in the west (USA, UK and France - the FUKUS axis,) by suplying Ukraine with increasingly expensive and sophisticated weaponry seem to be determined to prolong the war rather than working to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

All this plus the aftermath of the COVID pandemic hoax, with its economically disastrous lockdowns and social disruption has combined to create the financial crisis of 1922. Skyrocketing inflation and higher interest rates are setting the stage for a massive global financial crisis. The world’s major economies are staring at a steep recession.

According to the financial data agency, Namoura countries, including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and the Euro-zone, are heading into a recession by the end of 2022. Several of these countries are already in recession at the beginning of September.

The usual way nations try to control inflation is by raising interest rates, but tightening money supply can only impact growth and growth is the only way out of recession. So is the serpent about to eat its tail?

The financial storm forming over te developed world will be global in its effects and could wreck nations economically and politically. Ski Lanka has already fallen into insolvency and civil unrest. As major countries, both rich and poor alike, continue to amass immense debts, the possibility of a global meltdown looks inevitable.

Spurred by the easy money policy placed post the financial crisis 2008-09, central banks have pumped cheap money into economies and governments have elevated spending. Even before the COVID pandemic, governments were lending and spending far too heavily. For example, before the pandemic, the public debt of the world’s 70 poorest nations had gone up by 18% of the GDP. However, experts believe the level of indebtedness here was vastly understated. Thus experts fear that Sri Lanka’s catastrophic economic collapse is a peek into what may unfold in other nations soon.

In spite of the imminent threat of deep and long lasting recession threat, the binge-borrowing by governments of both rich and poor countries continues unabated.

Today, Japan’s debt is proportionately over twice that of the United States which is itself a crippling burden on American taxpayers. However, the Bank of Japan still sticks with its virtual zero interest rate policies. Moreover, the scale of money printing will almost certainly send the already wobbly Yen into a tailspin before the end of the year.

Currency and bond traders fear that this might trigger a financial contagion that will hit the currencies of other deeply indebted Asian economies. However, the crisis can also mushroom in Europe, given the European Central Bank (ECB) continues to buy a massive amount of bonds and a third of EU member states are already economic basket cases.

Furthermore, the US economy is slowing, which will be a drag for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, though, the IMF, the  for financially tlender of last resort for sinking nations, is imposing counter-productive prescriptions, including:

Today’s world lacks leaders who grasp the simple principle that stable money and low tax rates are fundamental for fast recoveries. In contrast, the Biden Administration is still trying to raise taxes. Even the already imploding global food crisis is worsening due to the Russia-Ukraine War.

Rising borrowing costs, inflation, and debt are all contributing towards economic collapse. According to European sources Belarus is on the verge of defaulting on its debt, as are at least a dozen additional countries—including Russia, Suriname, Zambia, Pakistan, and Lebanon.

Institute for Economic AffairsA
Business Insider