The Coming Energy Apartheid?

Apologies for our "sh*t" on Wednesday. We try to keep it classy around here. More importantly, we like to keep it typo-free.

But it's Friday. And here's what we're looking at today: Greek farmers protest energy prices, gas crisis continues, Iowa moves to outlaw solar on farmland, Diablo Canyon gets support from SLO county board, and record-breaking capacity auctions prices in the UK.


  • Shelling escalates along front line separating Ukraine and Pro-Russia separatists. (WSJ)

  • Eileen Gu wins gold in free ski half-pipe, earning her third medal in China. (NYT)

  • World's biggest lithium battery storage facility now completely offline after weekend incident. (ESN)

  • Farmers in Greece determined to block highways to protest rising energy costs. (CBC)

  • France and allies begin withdrawal from Mali. (NYT)


  • Biden administration defies court ruling again, opts against holding oil drilling lease sales. (DC)

  • No let-up in the gas crisis: LNG firms renege on commitment to provide cargoes. (TIN)

  • US coal companies defy obituaries with "amazing" results. (FT)

  • Gasoline prices just hit an all-time high in California. (OP)

  • Iran prepares to return to international oil markets. (OP)


  • Biggest coal plant in Australia to close early as renewables surge. (BBG)

  • Bill to outlaw solar projects on quality farmland moves out of committee in Iowa. (KWWL)

  • Wind energy company NextEra to help power proposed natural gas-to-fuel plant in Texas. (BBG)

  • US Air Force seeks next-gen solar tech. (CT)

  • France deployed 2.68 GW of solar in 2021. (PVM)


  • Bolsanaro says Brazil keen on Russian nuclear reactors, mum on Ukraine. (Reuters)

  • SLO county board supports life extension for Diablo Canyon. (ANS)

  • Rolls Royce begins search for small reactor sites. (NCE)

  • Big coal states eye small nuclear reactors for grid, economy. (E&E)

  • Three states with shuttered nuclear plants see emissions rise. (E&E)


  • Electricity prices jump nearly 50% for Central Hudson customers. (TU)

  • UK electricity capacity auction clears at highest ever price. (Reuters)

  • Power grid upgrades to handle extreme weather divide states. (BBG)

  • Energy department looks to build cyber detection platform for electric grid. (FNN)

  • India to wave transmission costs for green hydrogen manufacturers. (Reuters)

The Coming Energy Apartheid?

Let's say you want to decarbonize a sector. If it's possible to do it, you'll likely have to electrify it. Naturally, this will increase the demand for electricity. The opening three sentences of this paragraph should be obvious it's basic arithmetic. So let's imagine the following scenario: you want to decarbonize the world using only intermittent sources. Let's say you do this in Minnesota, where winters get so cold downtown Minneapolis has sky highways to spare pedestrians the pain of the outdoors. They need a lot of energy to make it through the winter.

Now, imagine closing all of Minnesota's coal plants and replacing them with solar. Coal plants in the US run about 40% of the time. In 2020 around this time, solar worked about 16% of the time in Minnesota. See the problem? You're gonna have blackouts. People will hate you. And they'll be right to. 

But now let's imagine we live somewhere without a lot of energy, or we're one of the 1 billion people on this earth who don't have access to electricity at all. Sure, getting some intermittent sources might be better than no sources at all. But intermittency is already a core problem for people who live with energy poverty. In Robert Bryce's documentary The Juice, he travels to India to see how people make do without electricity. He asks an older woman what her life would have been like had she been able to switch light bulbs on at night. Without hesitation and without self-pity she replies that she would have gone to college. Access to energy elevates human potential. “Darkness kills human potential," Bryce writes elsewhere, "Electricity nourishes it.” 

The danger things like ESG pose is that they strangle energy access. Even worse, forcing exclusively intermittent energy on poor countries kicks the developmental ladder away from them. And in the developed world it deepens the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Looking at the headlines about electricity bills in the Hudson area rocketing up, the UK electricity market's capacity auctions, or the general situation in the developing world, I can't help but worry that if we keep on this track we'll be entering an era of entrenched energy apartheid.

We already live in a world riven with energy inequality. What would make a world separated into energy apartheid different would be the formalization of this inequality. The "lag" experienced in poor countries would become a permanent feature wherein they remain forcibly dependent on weather-reliant renewables made abroad. In the developed West it would mean society split into two categories: those who never think about light or heating, and those who have to build their lives around getting them. It would be a world where a lucky and wealthy few plunge the planet into darkness and deprivation in order to "save it." 

Nuclear Barbarians: Africa4Nuclear ft. Princy Mthombeni

Princy Mthombeni from Africa4Nuclear sat down with me to talk about how she ended up becoming such an amazing advocate for nuclear, the obstacles to building nuclear in Africa, overcoming energy poverty, and more! 

Rather listen than watch? Check us out on Apple, Spotify, or Soundcloud.

Crom's Blessing

Kirk Karwoski was one of the greatest powerlifters born on American soil. To psych himself up at meets he'd listen to a tape that played Kiss's "I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll All Night" on a loop as he paced back and forth between attempts. Here's him doing his famous Karwoski row, which involved shrugging a barbell up and then rowing it to your belly button. Coach Marty Gallagher took this photo.