Elon Musk is a global CEO with a keen interest in geopolitical affairs.
Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on Feb. 24, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla (TSLA) has closely followed the evolution of the war, which has already caused many deaths and the displacement of millions.
The Russian bombings have also destroyed many Ukrainian cities. Currently, all eyes are on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, near the town of Enerhodar in the Ukraine. Energoatom, the Ukrainian operator of this site, claims that the Russians have bombed it on several occasions. Moscow, for its part, points the responsibility for the bombings back to Kyiv. Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are expected on site in the coming days.
This ongoing Russian war, which has lasted for several months, has poisoned relations between the country and the NATO countries and has led to severe economic sanctions against Moscow. In addition to NATO, the European Union has also imposed sanctions on Russia, which in turn has retaliated.
In March, the EU pledged to cut its gas imports from Russia by two-thirds within a year. In retaliation, President Vladimir Putin decided to reduce gas deliveries from Russia by 40%, thus provoking a gas crisis.
Since July, Russia sends only one third of the volume of gas required by Europe, to pressure European countries to soften their sanctions on financial transactions and technologies. Experts say Putin is using energy as a weapon to weaken Europe’s support for the Ukraine.
An energy crisis could cause a spiral of economic recession and social tensions in Europe, warn experts. The consequences of this energy crisis are not yet serious because of the summer, but we are now approaching autumn and the onset of cold weather. It is at this time that we will really measure the impact of the Russian threat as many European countries depend on Russian gas.
It is therefore no surprise that this gas war raises the question of the energy independence of Europe. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, depends on Russia for nearly half of its gas supply.
Energy prices in Europe have soared in recent weeks. Wholesale electricity prices for 2023 in Germany and France, the two largest European economies, thus broke records on Aug. 26, at more than 1,000 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) and 850 euros per MWh respectively. A year ago, prices for these two countries were around 85 euros per megawatt hour.
Overall European gas prices reached 341 euros per MWh, near the all-time high of 345 euros it struck in March.
The European Union member states are in the process of setting up energy saving and sobriety plans, knowing that, with the approach of winter, the risk of shortages and power cuts increases. The EU could soon hold an emergency meeting to deal with this energy crisis.
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“@EU2022_CZ will convene an urgent meeting of Energy Ministers to discuss specific emergency measures to address the energy situation,” tweeted on Aug. 26 Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, the country which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Shutting Down Nuclear Power Plants Is ‘Bad for the Environment’
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man is relaunching a controversial solution that he considers the most realistic to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia in terms of oil and gas supplies.
“Countries should be increasing nuclear power generation!,” the billionaire just suggests on Twitter. “It is insane from a national security standpoint & bad for the environment to shut them down.”
As expected, the tweet of the richest man in the world immediately caused thousands of comments and relaunched the ultra-sensitive debate on the atom. Environmental activists are against nuclear energy.
“Nuclear is clean, efficient, and could replace fossil fuels entirely if it were embraced. It’s not, because so-called environmentalists aren’t pro clean energy, they are anti-human,” commented journalist Scott Morefield.
“Some are indeed sadly anti-human,” Musk replied.
Nuclear is one of the actions the International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends in its 10-Point Plan to the European Union for reducing reliance on Russian supplies by over a third while supporting the European Green Deal.
“The key actions recommended in the IEA’s 10-Point Plan include not signing any new gas contracts with Russia; maximizing gas supplies from other sources; accelerating the deployment of solar and wind; making the most of existing low emissions energy sources, such as nuclear and renewables; and ramping up energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses,” the organization said last March.
The EU has set itself a target of carbon neutrality for member states by 2050.
European ecologists and countries like Austria and Luxembourg are opposed to nuclear power, which they do not consider a green energy. Nuclear power makes it possible to produce carbon-free electricity, but the environmental impact of its radioactive waste and the risk of accidents are significant, underscore these critics. They also say that nuclear power is dangerous because its waste can potentially cause significant damage.
Proponents of nuclear energy believe that it emits very little CO2 and thus does not contribute to climate change.