No Gas? Burn Lignite

Lignite, sometimes called ‘brown coal’, is a soft, brown sedimentary rock that is essentially compressed peat and is used almost exclusively as a fuel in steam-electric power stations.

Lignite is a poor fuel. Compared to other types of coal it produces less heat and more carbon dioxide and sulphur. Some brown coal contains toxic heavy metals that get burned off or remain in the fly ash.

Lignite Or Bust

But if it’s all you’ve got then that’s what you burn, up and until someone points out what a bad idea it is environmentally.

The Garzweiler surface mine in Germany is an opencast lignite mine. It’s huge, a long scar stretching north west to south east covering 48 square km.

And now for the news. It’s going to get bigger.

Because Russia turned off the gas tap, RWE who own the mine, need more space so it can mine more lignite. That means dismantling an array of eight wind turbines near the Garzweiler mine.

Under its licence, Energiekontor, which owns the wind turbines, has to dismantle the turbines by the end of 2023. Why, I don’t know. Three turbines have gone, already.

I guess that if the lignite mine did not need the space, then eight new wind turbines could have gone up.

But that’s not what’s happening.So no gas, but lignite.

Putin’s War

How can we look at the invasion of Ukraine? In the short term, there is all the death and destruction that is polluting the environment. In the future there will be rebuilding and more pollution.

On the plus side, the move to cleaner fuels has a new urgency.

What is the overall balance of environmental cost between gas and lignite? It’s worse, that’s clear. How much worse, I don’t know. But lobbyists at COP27 are promoting gas as a clean fuel.

Report It Or It Didn’t Happen

I read about the plan to increase the Garzweiler mine, and I thought about the news in Britain in December last year when Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Cove granted planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria. And I thought about how, if the EU were to object that it endangers the environment, that Michael Gove could point to the Garzweiler plan, and tell the EU to mind its own shop before it criticised Britain.

There have been protests in Britain about the new coal mine. Where were the protests in Germany? That’s when I caught the news printed in The Week, 14 January 2023 edition on page 5, that protests against the lignite mine have been going on since 2020.

Report it, or it didn’t happen.

Lützerath, Germany Mine standoff. Hundreds of climate activists who’ve occupied the site of a 35sq km lignite mine in Germany were engaged in a showdown with police this week, as eviction orders came into effect. The village of Lützerath in North Rhine-Westphalia was evacuated of its last residents some years ago, to allow for an extension of the Garzweiler opencast mine adjacent to it. But in 2020 activists moved in, occupying abandoned buildings and constructing tree huts. Although Germany is trying to wean itself off fossil fuels, about a third of its electricity currently comes from coal-powered plants.

The Smile On The Face Of Liz Truss

It was an accident, Guv’nor, unintended consequences. Who could have predicted it?

Ah, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng introduce a mini budget that sends the pound reeling. Wealth Funds short the pound and win big. Of course, they only win big with these newly cheap pounds. What is needed now is for the pound to rise again. Rishi to the rescue, and the pound begins its march back to solvency. It will be tough, lads, but we have to bite the bullet to get Britain back to its proper place at the big table.

What if the two premierships were a plan from the outset. First we let the Conservative populace decide on Liz, as we knew they would. She pulls the plug on the economy and then she steps aside for the man of the hour. And it’s a home run because this time we don’t let the Conservative populace decide, because that would risk the plan falling apart.

Looked at this way, the pound sinks and the pound rises, and some rich people make money along the way. Perfect. And it is not over yet because the British people have to bite the bullet for years.

Do you remember the smile on Liz Truss’ face when she stepped away from the lectern after resigning?

Of course, I am not being serious. Who would hatch such a plan to the detriment of the British public and the gain of a few? No one in their right mind, if only for fear of being found out. There again, such a plot has a certain British feel to it.

They Love Me But My Colleagues Do Not

This is effectively what Boris Johnson said when he declared that he would not enter the leadership contest that Rishi Sunk won. Johnson repeated what he said when he was dismissed as leader – that the broader membership of the Conservative Party loved him, but his backstabbing, self serving colleagues did not, more fool them. The implication is that the real worth is in the party members up and down the country, that only they know the true worth of Boris Johnson.

“In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who suggested that I should once again contest the Conservative Party leadership, both among the public and among friends and colleagues in Parliament.
“I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.
“A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the Government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.
“I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 – and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow.”
“There is a very good chance that I would be successful in the election with Conservative Party members – and that I could indeed be back in Downing Street on Friday.
“But in the course of the last days I have sadly come to the conclusion that this would simply not be the right thing to do. You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.
“And though I have reached out to both Rishi (Sunak) and Penny (Mordaunt) – because I hoped that we could come together in the national interest – we have sadly not been able to work out a way of doing this.
“Therefore I am afraid the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds. “I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid that this is simply not the right time.”

The fact is that Johnson would have caused a collective depression, a sigh of wonderment that we are back here in this whirlpool nadir once again.

Did Russia Build A Trap For Its Black Sea Fleet?

The Crimea bridge – the bridge that links Russia proper to Crimea has been bombed, and part of the road has collapsed. As the photographs show, the part that has collapsed is away from the central span through which ships and submarines would pass from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

In 2016, I wrote about Russia and its Black Sea Fleet and a reason why Russia was bombing ISIS in Syria. The motivation in part was, I wrote, because the northern part of the Black Sea freezes in winter. This affects Russia’s ability to get its Black Sea Fleet out into the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

If the Black Sea freezes, then the Sea of Azov to its northwest definitely freezes. Now that the Crimea Bridge has been bombed, I ask myself a question. If part of the bridge is now in the sea, does the collapse imperil the passage of the Black Sea Fleet from the Sea of Azov? And if it doesn’t, then does the bridge, or rather the big blocks of material of which the bridge is built, become a weak point or trap in some future conflict that can so easily be bombed to block the route?

The Black Sea Fleet has its official primary headquarters and facilities in Sevastopol, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, along with the rest of Crimea, in 2014. The rest of the fleet’s facilities are based in locations on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

So two things. With global warming, does the Sea of Azov and this part of the Black Sea still freeze? And how shallow is the passage and how easy it is to actually block the passage of ships by obstructing the bridge?

The Kerch Strait Incident

The Strait of Kerch at its narrowest is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) wide with a maximum depth of 15 metres (49 ft).

The Crimea Bridge was opened to traffic in 2016. In November 2018, the Russian coast guard fired upon and captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels after they attempted to sail from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the strait to the port of Mariupol.

To be clear, the Ukranian vessels were entitled to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The dispute was over seeking permissions, notifying whoever should be notified, etc. And of course, the reality of what happened depends on who you ask.

The point though is that during the incident, Russia placed a large a cargo ship under the bridge, blocking the route into the Sea of Azov.

If a large cargo ship can block the route, how much more could collapsed pillars of the bridge itself block the route? So it is a relevant question to ask whether the bridge that facilitates movement between Russia proper and Crimea could be a stone around the neck of the Black Sea fleet, that blocks its own entry to and from the Sea of Azov.

Winter Freezing

In a post from April of this year, researchers from Sofia University reported on winter freezing and stated

Black Sea freezing in winter is observed regularly in its northern parts and near the Kerch Strait. The reason for this is the relatively shallow northwestern shelf part and the river inflow of the three major European rivers Danube, Dnieper, and Dniester, as well as Don through the Azov Sea, carrying a large amount of fresh water to this part of the Black Sea. The global warming that has been observed in recent decades has made these episodes less intense; nevertheless, they exist and impact people who live n the area.

The aim of this study is to analyze the extent of sea-ice variability in the last 15 years, observed by satellite observations, and to describe the weather conditions favorable for freezing to occur. It is found that, in 2006, 2012 and 2017, sea ice extended unusually southward, which is related to the unusually cold winter and weather conditions in these years.

So winter freezing is a current problem for the Black Sea Fleet, And that ties in to a report by Reuters from September 20, 2022, that Russia had moved its Black Sea submarine fleet to Novorossiysk on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, a port that does not freeze in winter.

The more I think of it, the more I think that the bridge is a huge potential self-inflicted liability for Russia.