Energy crisis: shock strategy or citizen awakening?

September 26, 2022: against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, « mysterious » sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. During the fall, gas and electricity prices exploded with threats of power cuts in the dead of winter, drastic measures were taken to accelerate the energy transition, massive imports of American shale gas were made and the profits of energy multinationals soared. 

Beyond this shocking sequence, the acute energy crisis in which we are immersed has ancient and complex origins. It also has multiple and sometimes surprising consequences because they are often hidden. If we don’t give in collectively to flabbergasting in front of this new turn of screw of the techno-capitalist exploitation and to its antiphon of the submission to a sobriety imposed to the greatest number for the benefit of the 1%, it can also be the occasion of an awareness and a citizen’s awakening. 

By tracing the history of energy since the Industrial Revolution, Aurélien Bernier shows us that it is based not only on the ever-increasing exploitation of new sources of energy — coal, then gas and oil — but also that its development, once considered a public good, has been characterized since the great neo-liberal regression of the 1980s by an almost total takeover by the private sector. This is how he reveals the mechanisms of the single energy market: « European and probably national policies are not guided by social welfare or even economic development, but by the development of the market for the benefit of the private sector. In any case, the Ukrainian war will reinforce this dynamic, repainted in green in order to take advantage of the juicy market of the electricity produced thanks to photo-voltaic panels and wind turbines. Indeed, although wind and solar power pose serious environmental problems, these are minimized or even denied, and their industry is presented as the alpha and omega of the energy transition above all because it is « mature » from an economic point of view. 

In such a framework, the Ukrainian war has a good back. What does this have to do with biodiversity? A priori none. Unless one considers, as Inès Trépant explains, that by virtue of the famous shock strategy, which makes it possible to impose exceptional measures to deal with a staggering event, the European Commission is giving a brutal boost to its major energy transition plan. In doing so, it undermines its own timid policies in favor of biodiversity. Intensive agriculture and forestry, neonicotinoid pesticides and so-called « organic » fuels are being revived and form a deadly cocktail that accelerates the collapse of biodiversity. In order to « save the climate », we digitize, we burn our forests, we extract rare metals at all costs and we praise nuclear power. And since necessity is the law, the techno-industrial bulldozer rushes ahead, without any citizen debate but, on the contrary, by discarding the procedural and democratic safeguards that could slow it down. 

In his article on the geopolitics of gas, Daniel Zink makes the point. It reminds us that the United States has been pursuing a policy for decades to cut Russia off from the rest of Europe in general and from Germany in particular. In this respect, Washington’s hostility towards Nord Stream has always been perfectly public and assumed. Even before Seymour Hersch’s investigation exposed it, it was enough to ask who benefited from the crime to know the reason for the sabotage of the gas pipelines and the identity of its sponsors. In addition to the political scandal, Daniel Zink shows us to what extent this terrorist act is harmful to the environment: « Due to a lack of sufficient storage capacity, Russia is forced to flare off masses of its own gas, at a rate of 4.34 million cubic meters per day. Yet, how many of our European leaders, so quick to pose as heralds of the fight against climate change and to give moral lessons to drivers of old cars, denounce those responsible for this daily pollution that releases 9,000 tons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere every day? 

Speaking of cars, the engineer Laurent Castaignède also revisits the history of the Industrial Revolution, but from the perspective of the mad expansion of mobility and its corollary, air pollution. By 1950, motorized mobility accounted for more than half of the world’s oil consumption and a quarter of its coal consumption. In fact, the energy crisis is largely due to the immoderate use of transportation by our so-called modern civilization. His rigorous analysis of technological developments and pseudo-solutions promoted today by lobbies and advertising, first and foremost the electric car, leads him to agree with the conclusions of Aurélien Bernier and Inès Trépant: in addition to the fact that there is no truly clean and sustainable means of motorized transport, there is no technological solution to the energy and environmental crisis. Only another model of society, democratic rather than techno-capitalist, will allow us to stop the ecological disaster in progress. As Aurélien Bernier says: « Is it normal to invest in increasing the means of production rather than in saving energy? Aren’t there superfluous or even harmful productions that should be stopped or reduced? We have never had a democratic debate on this subject. The energy crisis we are experiencing is an opportunity to ask ourselves all these questions. But the challenge for governments and European leaders is to avoid asking them. Of course, they already have their ready-made answers: we continue with the market, production, consumption and profits. From this point of view, the ecological and digital transition is a decoy that serves above all to develop new markets. 

In a word, citizens must take back the power from the hands of the profiteers of crisis and war in the name of the general interest, both of humans and of all the living species that inhabit our planet. 

File coordinated by S. Kimo and Alexandre Penasse 

Espace membre

Member area