In one ancient Russian folktale, villagers find a wolf stuck in the ice and beat it mercilessly as payback for the mischief it got into over the summer. Though the wolf was able to escape, its tail was left frozen in the ice.
That story was recounted to the world by none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. In his version, the wolf was Western Europe.
In retaliation over the European Union’s support of Ukraine against the Russian invasion, officials in Moscow recently severed natural gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — a move that will likely be devastating for much of the continent. Germany, the largest economy in Europe, imported roughly 55 percent of its gas from Russia before the invasion of Ukraine, although it has since reduced its dependence to 35 percent.
It’s rather surprising that Russia, a country with comparatively little technological prowess or advanced industry, could hold the world’s third largest economy hostage. Even beyond Germany, the entire European Union — which is also home to France and Italy, the world’s seventh and ninth most powerful economies — is making a last-ditch effort to scrape together power reserves to warm homes and operate businesses through the looming winter.
The missing piece of the puzzle — the wolf’s tail caught in the ice — is Europe’s self-immolating energy policies. The European Union, in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement, abides by the official goal of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050. As governments regulate oil production while inexplicably shutting down nuclear power plants, political leaders in Europe have poured billions into solar, wind, and hydropower infrastructure in recent years.
The latter solutions, however, are not so reliable and can be crippled by unpredictable natural phenomena such as clouds, a windless day, or low rainfall. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was forced to admit last week, drought conditions in the region have severely reduced hydroelectric power generation capacity.
Her solution is to “flatten the curve” (sound familiar?) in the interest of reducing energy consumption during periods of peak demand. Though a concrete policy for the broader European Union is still forthcoming, multiple nations have already imposed energy usage restrictions or warned that such policies could be necessary through the coming months.
In Spain and Switzerland, officials have respectively mandated that thermostat levels remain no lower than a temperate 80 degrees during the summer and no higher than a balmy 66 degrees during the winter. If citizens of Switzerland dare to inch the temperature warmer, they could face fines above $3,000 per day or face the rest of the winter — and the next two winters as well — freezing in a prison cell.
In France, officials called for a 10 percent voluntary reduction in the nation’s energy usage, with mandatory consumption limits on the table as a “last resort.” In Germany, officials are pausing plans to shutter two of the nation’s three remaining nuclear facilities as a handful of ever-dreaded coal power plants sputter back to life.
As energy prices increase more than tenfold, demand for wood has soared, leading to the rapid harvesting of ancient forests. Companies in Poland, Estonia, Romania, and Hungary are reducing timber into wood pellets — a fuel source less efficient and more dirty than coal — and exporting them to Italy, Germany, Austria, and other Western European nations. Climate activist Greta Thunberg chastised her desperate comrades for daring to inflict such environmental degradation.
While Americans may be able to watch the crisis unfold from adequately heated houses across the pond, they will by no means be immune from fallout in the European economy — including the financial sector, which may find itself running on diesel-fueled generators in a few months — and surging worldwide oil prices emerging from the Russian invasion.
Even more so, Americans have a prophetic witness much closer to home. California, the nation’s haven for experimental green energy, announced the rollback of all new gas car sales by 2035 — mere days before officials asked residents to avoid charging electric vehicles during peak hours in the interest of averting grid failure.
Yet, like their counterparts in Europe, our leaders are wholeheartedly embracing such policies. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that he is “interested” in the California ban and affirmed that any nationalized policy must roll out “quickly enough to help us beat climate change.” More broadly, the Biden administration has established the goal of achieving net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.
Even if Western Europe and the United States manage to cut emissions by shivering through the winter or sweating through the summer, nations like China and India are expanding fossil fuel production as rapidly as possible. In the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, his nation refuses to be “detached from reality” with respect to its energy portfolio.
In other words — even if climate cultists remain in control of Western governments, they will have earned nothing beyond pats on the back from fellow elites.
Hopefully, America will see such leadership removed from power before the ice freezes.