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A day without coal: Britain edges towards energy dependence on Russia

As Britain’s coal use runs down and natural gas use increases, Britain will have to turn to Russia as North Sea gas reserves run down.

Alexander Mercouris

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Britain has just experienced its first full day of electricity generation without coal since 1882.

What is interesting about this development is that the way in which Britain has moved away from coal for its electricity use is little discussed.  An article by the BBC published in 2013 however provides the explanation.

The article begins by making the perfectly valid point that Britain uses energy more efficiently than it once did, and that total energy use has fallen

…..we consume less energy in the UK today than we did in 1970, and this despite an extra 6.5 million people living here.

The reason is very simple – we are more efficient both in producing energy and using it. The rise of the less energy-intensive service sector at the expense of industry has also played a part.

Households use 12% less, while industry uses a massive 60% less. This is largely offset by a 50% rise in energy use in the transport sector, due to the huge rise in the number of cars on the road – more than 27 million today compared with 10 million in 1970. The big increase in the number of flights is another important factor.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts that energy efficiencies will continue to offset population growth, so that we will use about the same amount of energy in 2030 as we do today. In other words, the UK will use less energy in 2030 than it did in 1970.

Overall this is of course true.  I would however make the important qualification that one reason for the dramatic 60% fall in energy use by British industry is surely the dramatic contraction of Britain’s heavy industry since deindustrialisation set in in Britain in the 1980s.

Putting that aside, whilst there is no doubt that Britain uses energy more efficiently than it once did, the major reason for the collapse in coal use is that coal is being increasingly replaced in Britain’s energy mix by natural gas.  The BBC article provides the figures as of 2013

In 1970, we used almost 57 million tonnes of oil equivalent in coal and manufactured fuels. Last year, we used less than 3 million tonnes. Bear in mind, however, that we are talking here about the primary source of the energy we consume – coal, oil and gas are also used to generate electricity (see below).

The void left by the fall in coal use has been filled largely by a rapid rise in the use of natural gas and, to a lesser extent, an increase in electricity usage.

By contrast, the use of petrol has remained pretty consistent throughout.

Breakdown of energy consumption

But to get a full picture of where all our power comes from, we also need to look at how electricity is generated.

And here the change in energy mix has been more dramatic. In 1970, coal accounted for about two-thirds of all electricity. Last year, it accounted for less than half, although for a number of years prior to that it made up one-third.

Apart from a sharp dip in the mid 1980s because of the miners’ strike, coal use fell most dramatically during the 1990s….

Oil use has also fallen sharply, from more than 13 million tonnes in 1970 to just 780,000 tonnes last year.

The big fall in coal and oil use in the 1990s was because of the so-called dash for gas, which was underpinned by cheap North Sea gas and the privatisation of the electricity market….

For fossil fuels, the conversion efficiency of power stations is about 40%-65%, depending on the fuel type – in other words, only half the energy stored in the primary fuel ends up as electrical energy. On top of this, power stations consume some energy themselves, while more still is lost during transmission over the national grid.

Breakdown of sources of electricity

Despite the recent resurgence of coal, DECC expects its use in electricity generation to fall sharply over the next 10 years.

There was a brief uptick in coal use in electricity generation before 2013, when the BBC article was written, but since then its use has continued to fall, as shown by the fact that Britain has just had a whole day without it.

In any event, as the article makes clear, the key change in Britain’s electric power generation is the decline of coal and its replacement by natural gas.  It would not be wrong to say that natural gas is replacing coal as the source of Britain’s electricity generation.

Britain’s natural gas historically has come from the North Sea.  However that source is finite, and in recent years production of natural gas in the British part of the North Sea has been rapidly declining.  High investment during the recent period of high energy prices caused total output of both oil and natural gas from the North Sea to rise, but the collapse in oil prices in 2014 has led to a sharp cut in investment, ensuring that before long output will start to fall again.

Moreover even high investment cannot change the fact of the rapid run down in North Sea reserves.  As the Financial Times says

More than 43bn barrels of oil and gas have been recovered since the first UK production in 1967 and a further 10bn-20bn barrels remain to be recovered, according to Oil & Gas UK.

In other words between two-thirds and four-fifths of oil and gas reserves in the British part of the North Sea have already been recovered, making it a certainty that Britain will cease to be a major oil and gas producer before long.

The question is what happens then.

Britain is not investing heavily in nuclear power, it seems that there are insuperable financial, technological and ecological obstacles in the way of reopening coal pits – making that option effectively impossible – and given technological constraints it is difficult to see energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar power making up the difference.  There has been some talk of Britain exploiting its own shales.  However political resistance to that in Britain is very strong, and it seems there may be geological constraints as well.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Britain will soon have to start importing gas, and will have to do so moreover on a major scale.  In fact Britain became a net importer of natural gas as long ago as 2004, and the share of imports in Britain’s natural gas use is certain before long to increase, and to do so drastically.

Some of this gas will no doubt come from other North Sea producers, especially Norway, which continues to have the biggest oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.  However as this study from last year says, even Norwegian output is now well below its peak, with reserves depleting, and besides Norway supplies natural gas to the whole of the EU, not just to Britain.

Britain can no doubt in theory import liquified natural gas from all sorts of places, including the Gulf.  However cost considerations point to Russia as the obvious source of Britain’s future natural gas once supplies of North Sea gas decisively run down if the British economy is to retain such competitiveness as it has left.  It is difficult to see what other commercially viable alternative there is.

Dependence on Russia for import of gas and ultimately for Britain’s electricity supply is not something which should worry the British unduly.  Contrary to myth there is no evidence the Russians have ever used gas as a political weapon, and there is no reason to think they would do so in relation to Britain.  However if and when Britain does start importing natural gas on a large scale from Russia – as it looks bound eventually to do – that will for the first time in history establish a strong economic connection between Britain and Russia.

That fact in itself is bound to change attitudes in Britain towards Russia, changing a relationship which save for brief periods during the Napoleonic and World Wars has always been adversarial, into something which of necessity will have to be more collaborative.  It is doubtful however that there is anyone within Britain’s political class who is willing for the moment to recognise the fact.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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