European’s Energy Dependency Doesn’t Mix Well with Historic Heatwave

(Photo Credit: Jan Arrhénborg/Creative Commons)
(Photo Credit: Jan Arrhénborg/Creative Commons)

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Europeans may be epically baking this summer, but it’s time to start worrying about winter.

A potential strike at several liquified natural gas (LNG) plants in Australia sent European gas markets into a tailspin given supplies already have been tight thanks to Putin’s never-ending Ukraine war. The plants Down Under produce about 10% of the world’s seaborne gas stockpile, and owners Chevron and Woodside Energy are now bargaining with unions to avert a labor stoppage. Goldman Sachs has warned European gas prices could as much as triple as winter sets in, per a Thursday report from the Financial Times.

Pump Up the Fan(s)

Rome beat its previous all-time record-high temperature earlier this summer, hitting 108 degrees in July. The heat turned the globe into a tinderbox: Fires have ravaged much of Southern Europe and North Africa this summer. And like last year, higher temperatures and energy use are jeopardizing plans to store adequate LNG.

The FT noted that Europe’s not equipped to store enough gas for the winter, so it’ll need to keep importing at increasingly costly prices:

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left room for other gas exporters to thrive as Europe weaned off Russian pipeline gas; the proportion of European gas imports made up by LNG is expected to rise to 40% this year, double what it was in 2021.
  • Conventional cooling tech like air conditioners and refrigerators accounted for at least 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, per the World Bank – twice the amount created by air and sea travel.

Extreme Home Makeovers: Compared to the US, air conditioning in Europe is notoriously limited. Some Europeans are redesigning their architecture to be cooler (literally). Modern construction techniques like high-rise buildings and asphalt trap more heat, making cities much hotter than the countryside. Traditional southern European houses have thick walls and more ventilation, a style the region might want to re-embrace. But in northern Europe, the problem’s the opposite — Scandinavian and Norwegian homes were designed to retain heat. Climate change should keep contractors busy.