Last winter, Europe experienced soaring energy prices, leading France and Germany to reconsider their closing of nuclear power plants. Now, China and India have announced that they will increase coal production by more than the total US consumption.
The world goes through cycles where the ruling elites lose their grip on reality, and it usually happens during times of wealth and decadence. The peace and prosperity of the last 70 years have allowed people to indulge in Quixotic projects such as combating climate change with windmills.
Devastating COVID-19 lockdowns and ravaging consequences of the war in Ukraine, as well as the boycott of Russia, have turned the tide and changed the sentiment. Ambitious climate change goals are scrapped, and the Green Leap has been put on hold indefinitely. The wind is now blowing in the direction of increased realism in energy policies.
India and China
Together, India and China make up one-third of the world’s population, and each is industrializing at a rapid pace. Both nations have previously made lofty commitments to transition to renewable energy in the future. In 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping announced that “China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures. We aim to have [CO2] emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”
That statement was made before the full effect of the economic lockdowns, supply chain trouble, and energy shortage were apparent. In April, Premier Li Keqiang confirmed that China’s goal for 2022 was to increase annual coal production by 300 million tons, up 36% from the previous year’s added capacity of 220 million tons.
Hot on China’s heels, India ordered the reopening of 100 coal mines that had been closed to meet climate change commitments. The number is expected to rise to 200 coal mines shortly. The government has removed environmental regulations and asked the industry to aggressively increase its coal production by 40% over the next two years.
The two Asian giants are imminently set to increase production capacity by 700 million tons of coal annually, which is more than the total coal production of the United States. By the end of next year, China and India will mine 5.6 billion tons per year, nine times America’s production.
India and other nations have also declared that they will transition to nuclear power in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With both prosperity and peace waning, so goes will to fight climate change. World leaders are discovering that they have more pressing challenges, such as avoiding famine and blackouts.
These radical course changes may signal the beginning of a realignment to reality. Unfortunately, that process will likely be painful. If history is any guide, periods of decadence and prosperity are punctuated by war, turbulence, and economic downturn. Tough times may be coming; brace for impact.