Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday, March 19, 2023

What the dramatic drop in European demand for natural gas showed us

When Russian natural gas supplies to Europe dropped dramatically in the wake of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Europeans and their governments wondered how they could remain warm through the coming winter. After all, Russian natural gas constituted 40 percent of the European Union's total supply. The only near-term solutions were to cut natural gas consumption and import more liquefied natural gas (LNG). But with a limited ability to accept LNG, cuts in consumption seemed inevitable.

While some industrial facilities temporarily closed due to high gas prices and some companies said they were relocating gas-intensive production outside Europe, much of the reduction in natural gas consumption was due to the mild winter weather and the reduction in use by households. (Some of reduction was due to fuel switching as electric utilities substituted coal for natural gas though the numbers have yet to be compiled.) As a result, prices of natural gas in Europe (using Dutch TTF Gas Futures as a proxy) fell by 80 percent from the end of September until now. Europe avoided the worst.

Last year Europe as a whole decreased its natural gas consumption by 13 percent, a hefty decline. Its use over the recent winter declined by 19 percent from the 5-year average.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Despoiling the final frontier: Satellite mega-constellations threaten ozone layer

Here we go again. Satellite companies that plan to put tens of thousands of satellites into orbit to create space-based internet and cellphone networks are about to reach the final frontier for human degradation of the environment, outer space. And, they are doing it in ways that threaten the radiation protection of the ozone layer.

The so-called low Earth orbit satellites the companies are launching are designed to last for around five years and then fall back to Earth, disintegrating in the atmosphere as they fall. What they leave behind are materials that are likely to lead to the destruction of the ozone layer. With thousands of satellites potentially falling to Earth each year, the extent of the damage could be major.

We've seen this movie before. Without the curiosity of a lone scientist and his assistant in the early 1970s who asked what happens to highly persistant chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once they are released into the air from refrigerator coils and spray cans, we humans might have lived (and died) through the destruction of the ozone layer without having the knowledge to stop it. That layer high up in the stratosphere protects all living things from the Sun's ultraviolet radiation.

Sunday, March 05, 2023