The explosion in energy prices after the war in Ukraine began, but above all as a consequence of the "green" energy policies which have made Europe so dependent on Russian gas for the last 20 years, has led and is leading hundreds of millions of Europeans to restrict their energy consumption, especially this winter, in heating.
As you read this, some European families are already at 15 degrees (59° Fahrenheit) in their living rooms . Happy New Year!
And winter is not near its end. The countless restrictions on heating and electricity that Europeans have to impose on themselves -- they have no choice -- will have devastating consequences. That was the conclusion of a robust statistical survey published recently by the British magazine The Economist.
Due to the current insane energy prices, The Economist explained, 147,000 Europeans will die this winter in excess of the annual average (years 2015-2019). If the winter is mild, according to the magazine, this drops to 79,000 "excess" deaths. If the winter is harsh, the number of "excess" deaths is projected to be 185,000:
'The only firm conclusion our model provides is that if the patterns from 2000-19 do continue to apply in 2022-23, Russia's energy weapon will prove highly potent. With electricity prices near their current levels, around 147,000 more people (4.8% more than average) would die in a typical winter than if those costs returned to the average from 2015-19. Given mild temperatures—using the warmest winter during the past 20 years for each country—this figure would fall to 79,000, a 2.7% increase. And with frigid ones, using each country's coldest winter since 2000, it would climb to 185,000, a rise of 6.0%."
Tens of thousands of soldiers are estimated to have been killed in the Ukraine war. Put another way, even in a best-case scenario -- a mild winter -- according to The Economist, exploding energy prices could kill more Europeans than the war in Ukraine has killed soldiers. Staggering.
The Economist is rightly cautious: the explosion in energy costs over the past year is without precedent in Europe. The statistical projection must take into account national policies of energy price caps and "smoothing". It is, however, always healthy to be wary of mathematical modelling of the future -- think of the IPCC reports, and the recent projections of COVID deaths.
Cold kills. The cold directly kills those who give up heating, those who perish in the street. The cold encourages the deadly diseases that thrive in winter. The cold kills those who try to heat themselves by alternative, makeshift means during blackouts and supply interruptions.
This tragedy is the direct consequence of the green energy policies that have been pursued in Europe for the past 20 years.
The construction of the post-WWII West European order, which was not yet a "European Union", was largely built on the desire to promote the production of abundant and inexpensive energy. Two of the three original "communities" – coal and steel and atomic energy -- responded to this desire. The main objective of the Euratom Treaty was to create "the conditions for the development of a powerful European nuclear industry" capable of guaranteeing the energy independence of the six original members of the European Coal and Steel Community (which eventually became the European Union).
European energy policy was, for a long time, decided under the aegis of experts such as Samuele Furfari, who are aware that energy underpins human existence in all its manifestations.
Today the European Commission is dominated by self-styled environmentalists such as Frans Timmermans, under the leadership of Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, not to mention the wanderings of the European Parliament. The disfavour into which the only sustainable, non-intermittent and genuinely European source of energy -- nuclear power -- has fallen is largely due to the decisions of the European Union.
Of course, nuclear energy is not without risks and shortcomings. There is, also, the question of nuclear waste, which is not so easy to manage. After the progressive banishment of coal in much of Europe, however, and as the EU countries have practically no easily extracted gas of their own, there are only two options: nuclear energy, and imported gas, so far from Russia, Qatar and Algeria, three authoritarian regimes. America has gas, too, but for that Europe needs liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals. Germany, for example, has just one "floating terminal" of that kind. These are the reasons nuclear energy needs to be part of Europe's energy mix, if it wants to remain a tiny bit independent, especially from countries such as Russia and Qatar.
This does not absolve Europe's national governments of their responsibilities. French President Emmanuel Macron first disinvested from the French nuclear fleet, which he is now trying to patch up in a hurry. Belgium is the only country in the West that has continued to shut down fully operational nuclear reactors since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Germany has been bought by Russia and its gas. The biggest European environmental organizations have been massively financed (bought, bribed) by Gazprom -- in other words, by the Russian government.
The consequence of this applied environmentalism -- the "progressives'" banishment of coal, the destruction of Europe's nuclear capabilities, the extreme dependence on Russian gas -- is that we, the arrogant Europeans, are enduring the winter like a bunch of Hobbits.
Drieu Godefridi is a jurist (University Saint-Louis, University of Louvain), philosopher (University Saint-Louis, University of Louvain) and PhD in legal theory (Paris IV-Sorbonne). He is an entrepreneur, CEO of a European private education group and director of PAN Medias Group. He is the author of The Green Reich (2020).