BY ROBERT BRYCE:
In more than 30 years as a reporter, I have witnessed plenty of media puffery and mendacity. But last week’s inclusion by Politico Europe of Russian President Vladimir Putin on their “Green 28” list ranks as one of the most odious and disgusting examples of media misconduct I have ever seen.
The piece claims Putin is “the invader making the EU green,” and that by invading Ukraine, Putin has “achieved something generations of green campaigners could not — clean energy is now a fundamental matter of European security.”
Before going further, it’s essential to put Putin’s invasion of Ukraine into context. According to a report published last month by the United Nations, at least 5,700 civilians have been killed and some 8,300 others have been injured. On October 3, three analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that more than 7.5 million Ukrainian refugees “have been registered outside of Ukraine. Poland and Germany have received the most refugees — over one million each.”
Several news outlets have documented the reign of terror that Russian soldiers inflicted on the Ukrainians under their control, including rape, torture, and murder. Last month, The New York Times reported on findings by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which “documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined.” The September 23 article says that the U.N. had “added more chilling allegations to the list of crimes widely reported by Ukrainian and international investigators probing the executions of civilians in Bucha and the mass burial site found near the town of Izium after it was recaptured by Ukrainian troops this month. It added that the U.N. has “concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.”
Geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan recently summed up Russia’s tactics in Ukraine writing, “There is now ample proof from many of the liberated towns of not simply Russian soldiers robbing and killing civilians, but of unit commanders setting up rape clinics and torture chambers for use by the men under their command. War crimes in a tactical sense.”
None of these facts merited a mention in Politico Europe’s paean to Putin, who by the way, ranks number 1 on their Green 28 list. The article barely mentions the fact that European countries are scrambling for all of the hydrocarbons they can find and that all of them are racing to refill their natural gas storage as rapidly as they can before winter sets in.
The article ignores the hard reality that European countries are racing back to coal. In July, the International Energy Agency reported that “Coal consumption in the European Union is expected to rise by 7% in 2022 on top of last year’s 14% jump. This is being driven by demand from the electricity sector where coal is increasingly being used to replace gas, which is in short supply and has experienced huge price spikes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Several EU countries are extending the life of coal plants scheduled for closure, reopening closed plants or raising caps on their operating hours to reduce gas consumption.”
The article doesn’t mention the resurgence of nuclear energy in Europe or the fact that Germany has done an about-face and will be extending the life of some of its reactors. Nor does the article mention anything about fertilizer, even though some 70% of Europe’s fertilizer plants have been shuttered due to high natural gas prices.
More importantly, the article neglects to note that Europe drove itself into the ditch by spending too heavily on renewable energy over the past two decades while ignoring its growing dependence on Russia for oil and gas. Indeed, according to a recent report by John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, between 2008 and 2021, renewable energy subsidies in the EU cost consumers some $746 billion. Making matters worse, those subsidies are adding nearly $70 billion per year to consumers’ bills.
The result of all this malinvestment is obvious: Europe is teetering on economic ruin. Factories and smelters are being shuttered, many of them permanently. The U.K. now has the highest electricity bills in Europe and according to a report released last week by the British government, business bankruptcies in the country are now at their highest level since the 2009 financial crisis.
Instead of recognizing the staggering human and economic harm that Putin’s savage invasion of Ukraine has caused, Politico Europe claims that the invasion was well timed, coming two years after the European Union laid the “foundations of its Green Deal program for zeroing out emissions by 2050. That meant the policy machinery for a total remake of the European energy economy was already moving. All it needed was a nudge.”
A “nudge”? Really? No matter how many times I read those last few sentences, I can barely believe that any journalist could be so obtuse. It’s telling that the piece on Putin doesn’t have a byline. After all, who would want to put their name on a piece that reduces such a savage conflict to a “nudge”?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left thousands of civilians dead or injured and turned more than seven million Ukrainians into refugees. This week, the Russian military has been targeting civilians and purposely shelling the country’s electric grid as part of an effort to inflict as much suffering as it can on the people of Ukraine. And yet, Politico Europe concludes its piece on Putin by casting the war as positive because it will mean that the “EU becomes greener, faster, than before Russian troops marched across the Ukrainian border.”
This is shameful and repulsive. Politico Europe owes the public an immediate apology and a retraction.
Robert Bryce is the host of the Power Hungry Podcast, executive producer of the documentary, Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, and the author of six books, including most recently, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations. Follow him on Twitter and TikTok: @pwrhungry
This article originally appeared at Real Clear Energy